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Are you familiar with Alex McManus, Voxtropolis, and the Culture Pub strategy?

This is one reason that I don't like for people to introduce me as "their pastor" to people they know. I'd rather them see that I am just a caring, compassionate human being -- long before I ever introduce them to our church community.

I think church-goers today (which includes me) need more understanding of sensitivity to the needs of those around them. Much of that, of course, comes from full reliance on the Holy Spirit.

Good post, and yes... we do need these.

--Terrace Crawford

i am indeed sam. good reminder

Reminds me of St. Patrick's strategy in reaching the "barbarians:"
allow them to feel like they belong before they believe.

Very interesting notion Ben... I am going to give this some thought. I think some people have gone at this from the idea of "third spaces" too. Probably not as intentional as this though. Great thought...

Wasn't Jesus always reaching out to the culturally acceptable, and those that were out of fellowship with the church? I'm not so sure about a pre-church...maybe it's just semantics.

I am sure about a church that is so Jesus and Kingdom centered that they act like the King, not being so self-centered or so unaware of others...

(Nobody, Christians or Non-Christians alike, enjoy the company of those with tendencies of navel-gazing - whether intentional or not.)

I think maybe it involves more about our concept of Church (the institution)...anybody can go to a meeting on a Sunday morning with music and a message...only The Church (the Body) can be The Church; be a vehicle for Jesus as the Agent of Change.

I would even go so far as to say that somebody who doesn't have some type of burden for the lost, those who want to come to church or otherwise, should examine themselves a bit – and have the Holy Spirit give them a 'lil tune-up. :)

I admire your passion and purpose Ben.

I'm with Jonathan - people need to belong, before they will believe. I have found many church plants put on a "good show" but expect to get a large plate offering, while the audience puts in a ten or twenty.

Some make an effort at small groups, primarily women. But no effort to "enfold" the men. I ask many a guy about the church they attend, and they reply, "I like the music, but it's really my wife's church."

I agree, spiritual receptivity is a continuum - a spectrum of hostility to fanaticism - and that any church will exist on a small part of that spectrum (and creep slowly to one end).

I also think there is another axis - some people come with a tangible need (the mother with the disabled daughter), but are mostly whole people. Others are the recovering alcoholic, who needs wholeness more than help. Two ends of another continuum. True, many pastors learn when to refer a person to professional, specialized therapy. But usually not the mild cases.

Mapping both on a grid, it would seem a church could be broad on acceptance, but narrow on wholeness (just from the sheer administrative horsepower to pastor), or vice versa?

This one is plain and simple: one of the functions of church is "pre-church". Period.

It's Agabus and his church preparing their city for famine.

It's the church of Antioch being known for "the Way" they lived their lives.

A church that isn't doing "pre-church" will soon be a "post-church".


I love your thoughts here bro. I'm with you 100%. We need to stop trying to create gatherings, events, programs that are for non-followers b/c they're not coming and honestly it doesn't even appeal to them. We need a paradigm shift. We need to meet people where they are, do what they're doing and in the midst of being with them (doing life, building community, etc) we need to love them. Love always leads to life. Love is a universal language.

i have amazing conversations with people when i have no spiritual agenda. that can come later


I am def strugglin with what church should look like, especially by today's standards. I really like what you are saying. It's almost like having someone (pre-church planter) till the ground and plant the seed so that church planter can come water that seed which in time God will grow.

How would it look though? I really believe that if you build it based on serving with no strings attached that eventually what you say can happen.

Will you expound more on this in a later post?

I would agree that we shouldn't create gatherings, events, environments, etc. to reach out...I think that in a way, by doing so, we may be saying that what "we're selling" really isn't as good as we're proclaiming that it is. Maybe that's what turns off non-followers.

(How did we ever arrive to the conclusion that we can hype Jesus, anyway?)

...Only the Power of Jesus can change people though, no matter how good our relationships with them may be. Relationships should be the avenue upon which we convey the Gospel...Shouldn't we always have an agenda to reach people for Jesus?

In the end, what else is there, besides Him?

To clarify: By "gatherings, events, environments, etc", I mean the bait and switch evangelism techniques to draw people, and then "surprise" them with the Gospel or a version of the Gospel - I have no problems in general with community; community being a large group of connected relationships.

Love the concept, like it even better without any label. As small groups become the norm, there is a huge population that will never plug in, it simply does not fit their need or personality. Yes, what if the goal was simply to connect and start building a bridge between 2 people?

I think if we see the Church for what it truly is, a group of people following Jesus together, then the Church can and should be accomplishing what you're saying here. If the people of God are following as we should I think we'd see people taking ownership to get together in different environments with different amounts of people for different purposes. We should be having real relationships with people that are hurting and don't know Jesus simply because we're human and we want them to experience real life now and forever. We should just want to know them better, love them, and at the right time and in the right way introduce them to Jesus. In addition, I think we should also see the people of God getting together with other followers to inspire, encourage, and equip each other to seriously follow Jesus in the context of our lives - to get together to pray for boldness and courage to truly follow Him in our sphere of influence and community. I think being the Church in this way is tough, especially in our current culture. I know I'm struggling with it.

Wow, great thought. I agree with some that the church is the church and is is God's idea. I believe that the church has been more effective in the past at doing exactly what you are talking about...

Is it possible that this is God's fresh breath growing the church in a new way? Stretching His people to new and exciting missions and approaches? I would love to see what becomes of this.

I think it's just a matter of looking at how the church functioned in the Bible. They didn't necessarily have pre-church, they just reached the people they knew.

Pre-church, to me, sounds like an institutionalized version of something church members should be doing organically. Outside of Sunday morning and Wednesday night, what are we doing? Aren't we supposed to be making friends, eating and drinking with the everyone?

Church meetings are for believers. The real ministry to the unbelievers should be happening before the unbeliever ever steps foot in a church. I think we miss that because we want to dump all the responsibility on pastors and professionals instead of taking responsibility ourselves.

So should there be pre-church? Absolutely, it's what we're supposed to be doing when we're not meeting with all our believer friends.

-Marshall Jones Jr.

Isn’t that what it was like pre-“church” as described in Acts? Early on in Acts when people gathered as a community regularly, caring for one another… selling possessions for each other… etc? Before organized religion got in the way?

I 100% love where this thought is going and think we also have to step into the conversation of what “community” actually means and looks like in this day and age. For me, perhaps the better question is... what COULD community look like if it focused on people and needs versus a motive driven by conversion. Sometimes, even though well intentioned, I think we mess up by putting the desire for someone to believe in front of recognizing who they are and being present with them where they are right now. They can tell the difference.

Love the idealized answer of "the church should be..." but that's just not reality.

And I don't know many people who are dying to have you "love on them" one-on-one over coffee. Yikes. It still need the power of community.

What if spiritual entrepreneurs were the missionaries of the future? Notice Paul didn't start churches on his first stops in cities throughout the Med world.

He connected with people first... then came back to appoint elders and officially start churches.

My brain has been spinning feverishly since Friday about this post. So much so I not-so-cleverly found some way to reference it in the message this weekend.

This is such an important discussion for the universal church to engage in. Thanks for getting our wheels spinning Ben...

One of the most brilliant examples of pre-church is a coffeehouse night that my friend Jumaine Jones started in Silver Spring, Maryland.

On the one night I visited, it was packed wall to wall with artists, poets, musicians, and spectators. It eventually led to the start of his church, The Bridge.

Pre-church...and post-church...the overlooked mission fields? Good call.

Refreshing to see this conversation. Mike O and Marshall J terrific comments. A word that comes to mind is "inclusive."

As I get older and less wise, I feel less attracted to propositional religious community (stage-centric, professional clergy-driven model) and more attracted to people who simply exhibit the behavior of the Jesus I read in the gospels. I'm guessing that pre-Christians are probably more attracted to this behavior, as well.

"i have amazing conversations with people when i have no spiritual agenda." (BA)

see, that's real faith. that's the spirit at work, not our religious agenda. reminds me of Brent Toderash's reversal of an old saying...

"live your faith, share your life."

This Pre-Church concept that you mention is similar to the Young Life model for reaching youth. They have a "club" which is a simple event with food, games, etc. They use club to invite youth and build relationships with them. Through club, they hope to introduce them to Christ and help them build a foundation. They like to partner with churches for the next step (plugging the youth in). But that is usually the hardest part. When I was a youth pastor it worked so well that we didn't do outreach. Young Life built the relationships in the community and we became the "plug-In" part of the equation.

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