Last year I had the pleasure of meeting Ben Sternke in Fort Wayne, and I occasionally read his excellent and thought-provoking blog.
He has a great sentence there right now, and it's this: thinking about how he wants his church to be focussed on reaching out to his community, going out with the love of Jesus and genuinely promoting amongst every member of his flock the developing of a culture which touches the untouched with that love, he writes -
We want to be more serious about our sending capacity than our seating capacity.
Now. As a statement of church, it's incomplete. But as a statement of outreach for a church, it's a soundbite that beats the pants off whole books I've read. I'm playing with it in my mind and heart, loving it, swapping it around, learning from it. Have a read of Ben's site - and a good think too.
Still thinking about this. I've been chatting to a friend, who was telling me about mission in her church. A church needs a centre. I don't mean like "a church centre" a building - I mean a theological centre, a purpose. And actually, I don't think mission (as in outreach, the sending) is that centre. Because - why are we sending? To what do people return? More sending?
Worship is the centre. Or, if I can fill that out, being the worshipping family of Jesus is the centre. We need mission - the sending out of all so we may see the drawing in of many into the centre. But without the centre, what's the point.
For us, the two become very closely linked - close but not always identical.
If we are the worshipping family of Jesus, and this is our centre, our first calling, then it should also shape how our sending, our mission is expressed. I believe that drawing people into our worshipping life is a central part of the mission. (Or should the sending result in something that looks different to the centre?) I don't mind (indeed I encourage it!) if that results in re-thinking how we express our worshipping life together.
So it turns our seating capacity matters - not per se, but that we have a place where we gather to worship Jesus as his family (as long as the centre is never simply indulgent or a hidey-hole or selfish). Because mission and worship should not be torn apart so much.
We do love to seperate things into boxes. The older I get, the more I can't help wondering if the things of God are bigger than the boxes.