Introduction

It all started with a few conversations about struggling churches and struggling communities.  One had lost touch and the other had lost hope. Increasingly, it seemed that the only churches that weren’t struggling were the ones not in struggling neighborhoods.  Church plants popped up in the more comfortable suburbs and exurbs, targeting the middle and upper-middle classes. Resources funneled into attractive buildings and high-tech programs.  Struggling churches and communities continued to struggle. The needle, on that score, didn’t seem to flinch. So, it became a topic of conversation that turned into a point of conviction: the Church needs to change.

First, I think we need to be clear on what the Church is.  The Church is the body of Christ, the physical presence of Christ on earth.  It’s composed of believers called out of the world, transformed by grace, and thrust back into the world to work and witness for Christ and the Kingdom of God.  Even though the Church is often confused with its property and programs, it’s the people of God that makes the Church.

I love the Church.  I love the mish-mash diversity of its members, the redemptive promise of broken people being restored and recreated into something new and beautiful.  I love that the Church is God’s chosen instrument through which to engage the world, even with her warts and wrinkles. Sometimes I think it’s ridiculous that God would choose to use something as ungainly and awkward as the Church to represent Him and His mission.  However, God chooses to use the foolish to shame the wise.

I’ve had the privilege of experiencing varied expressions of the Church from rural Appalachia to urban Portland, Oregon, small town Washington State to metro Boston.  My observations, obviously, are my own; I don’t pretend to know every situation in every context. The stories shared here are primarily from personal experience or from first-person accounts.  My hope is that through these stories and snapshots, a conversation will be sparked about the disconnect between the Church and those most desperately in need of Christ. And out of those conversations, changes will come.

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