The central thesis of the Unbounded Church missional strategy is that in order to reach the Lost in Australian society, Christians must abandon the standard decades old, low and declining fruit, Sunday-Centric, In-Drag, resource-consuming missional platform and go into the community and set up small Christian fellowships where the Lost regularly meet already.
The slogan that demonstrates that way of thinking is-
‘Their place, Their time, Their language, Their style’
Which is pretty much the opposite of most contemporary missional strategies which generally operate from a base within four walls, whether these be a traditional church building, a house church, or a rented property. Such physical walls (bounds), as well as the cultural, spiritual and psychological ‘walls’ that usually accompany them, are the missional barriers that the Unbounded Church mindset seeks to dismantle.
As a result of this strategy, and with thanks to God, we see encounters in public places that bear real spiritual fruit in the lives of people who would never be reached by ‘In-Drag’ into ‘four walls’ approaches to mission.
Another slogan that is often spoken after such an encounter is that it happened –
‘’Because we were there!’
This brings me to John’s story . . .
About four years ago when I had moved to a new area, I commenced the habit of going to the local Community Centre every week at around lunch time with the express intention of getting to know the ‘regulars’. Each week I took some work and my computer, ordered a coffee and sat at one of the tables in the Café.
Over many weeks I noticed a couple of men who seemed to be there every time having their lunch. Later I found out that they were brothers, John and Alan. We didn’t have any conversation until one day they came up to me and, pointing to the bible I usually had open on the table, said that they were intrigued as to what I was doing. What exactly I said I can’t remember but it would have been something about a Bible study or Christian course I was working on at the time.
Over time we got to chatting quite regularly, during which conversations they occasionally raised some often difficult questions on spiritual issues they had. After a while I said that if they were interested in such issues perhaps they would like to meet regularly to discuss them. This how a weekly Christian discussion group started in that Community Centre, a group that over time grew to 11 or 12 people before we had to split it into two. (see the photo below – Alan and John of second and third respectively from the camera on the right)
As we got to know John it was evident that he had travelled through a spiritual journey that ahd consisted of three phases. The first, which sadly many do not move beyond, was that of being what might be called a ‘Churchian’. This is someone who has some involvement in the life and rituals of a local church, often attending with their parents (as in John’s case) but do not have true Christian faith. The second seems to have been when he attended university, studying Philosophy and Psychology, when he left behind the ’Churchianity’ of his younger days and became an Atheist. The third phase was the few years he spent in the group in the Community Centre.
About three years ago John was diagnosed with a serious cancer, being given about two years to live, although he live about three. Over this time as we met week by week John continued to ask his questions, but I and others could see him changing and actually maturing into a believer.
Two weeks ago John died.
I had the privilege of spending time with him over his last two months on earth, initially in the home he shared with Alan but then in his hospital ward. Much of this was spent in talking about faith issues and reading the bible. He particularly liked Revelation 21:3-5.
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death”[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’
5 He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’
On the lunch time before he died I was with him in his room, it would be the last time I would see him this side of heaven. Just as I was leaving his doctor came in and she asked him a question. “Are you worried about anything?’
John’s reply was one of the most beautiful things I have heard. With a loud voice so the whole Ward could hear he said-
‘Worried! Why would I be worried? I’m a Christian
and I know Jesus will be waiting to welcome me’
By the Grace of God, John’s journey had taken him from Churchian, to Atheist, to Child of God.
That is John’s story. The angels in heaven rejoice, and so should we!