“I hope we can reach [fill in the blank with a given grouping of people]!” With that kind of statement comes a variety of churches “targeting” a given group. Over the past years we have witnessed “biker” churches, “cowboy” churches, and a host of “brand” churches.
What about reaching people – all people. I know the arguments. They won’t come to this church or that church. But, if you hold church in a rodeo arena or a bar you may get some to come. I have little problem with church being held in an arena or a bar (I am sure I will be called on to explain this one). The problem is with the idea of “targeting” groups rather than reaching people. And then I sometimes wonder if we don’t negate the persons in out attempts to reach people.
We exit, hopefully, an era in which we expressed a greater love for noses than for people. When we label a group we “objectify” them. We categorize them with the hopes we can find what they like, don’t like, listen to, don’t listen to and then forumlate a strategy to “go get ’em.” In the process we miss their story. We miss who they are and from where they’ve come and their dreams of where they may go. We fail to consider the full impact of the crises they have endured and the victories that may be theirs. We may miss an incredible part of God’s story in the process.
I know, we do prop them up by asking them to share their story in a setting where we hope others will make the same connections with God they did. In the end, is this not the same thing? Aren’t we commoditizing their story for our benefit? Haven’t we objectified their story and in some way taken them out of their own story? Does this not reduce them from people to tools?
The solution may lie in a shift in our understanding of mission. We tend to objectify missions as though they are projects. Would it be better to view the church as mission and therefore those of us in the church living out missional lives. The difference may be expressed as we would not only take “mission trips”, but we would live “mission”; lives compellingly connected to the Kingdom of God. Lives expressing how the grace of God captivates us completely – heart, soul and strength.