In my experience, churches are often closed communities which do not easily reach outsiders with the good message about Jesus. Some recent examples: 1) After much discussion a church opened its doors to visitors. A big step to take! Yet on the day the volunteers in the church were so busy preparing food and chatting to each other, that no-one was open to the few visitors who came into the church. The Gospel was not shared and the visitors did not feel welcome. 2) On Good Friday many churches in England hold a march of witness through their town or village. In my town, the march lasted for about 25 minutes from one church building to another. Then the participants disappeared onto the forecourt of the second church where they worshiped together for much longer than 25 minutes and had a great time. But outsiders could neither see not hear them.
One of the students I teach is already a minister and she is single. She has decided not to live in the manse, which is a secluded building in a sleepy neighbourhood. Instead she has moved into a static caravan at the local caravan park where she often has her meals in the cafeteria. After only a few weeks she has already been able to share her faiths with several people. Others come to her for 'pastoral' care. She told me that she is strongly convinced that this 'incarnational' ministry is God's calling on her life.
Are our churches visible? Are we discernible as witnesses of Jesus? And when we organise an outreach activity, do we really face outward or are we merely having a good time with those we know?
Pieter J. Lalleman
Editor, European Journal of Theology