Shortly after I sent out the newsletter announcing our transition into a new area of ministry and the launch of Village Soul, I received a Facebook message from a friend encouraging us in this new step. His short note concluded with this thought, “I think every church needs such a missionary.”
Though I don’t want to presume upon God there is something in that statement that resonates in my heart as we step out on this path. I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to think Village Soul is the answer for every church (neither do I think my friend is that presumptuous). God may meet the need for other churches in other ways. Still, part of the long term vision God has put in our hearts is that we would provide an avenue to raise up others who could come along side other small congregations in a missionary / local church relationship and be a catalyst for missional outreach in their communities.
It seems natural to me that God would place a passion in my heart for community based outreach. In many ways my own spiritual life is a product of this type of ministry. Though my father’s side of the family has a history in the church, in my early years my immediate family was very removed from that history. In those years, I remember living in a small trailer park in Coleman, WI. An older lady in one of the houses on the hill above the park stopped by our trailer to invite me to a neighborhood Bible club she was having in her house. This is my earliest memory of a context where I heard about Jesus and responded to a desire to follow Him. In many ways that woman was living out a missional vision for her community, and it touched my life. She was the first of many God placed in our lives to keep us connected to the church through those early years.
In some ways it seems like much of the American Church lost sight of the need for grass roots, community based outreach over the last couple of decades. We became dependent on slick ad campaigns and programs to attract people to our comfortable buildings and large events. There is value to those things and they have been successful in some ways. Still, there is a need for a rebirth of grass roots relational outreach into our communities. There is a ground swell building for this type of outreach in many segments of the church. It may still be a trickle now, but thankfully it is growing.
I recently received a magazine from Next Level International, an organization planting churches in Europe that I took a team to the Czech Republic through a few years ago. It was printed with two different lists in opposite directions. One list was “12 Really Effective Ways to Be Missional.” The other list was “12 Ways to Avoid Being Missional.” The lists meet in the middle at number 7. The number 7 way to be missional is “Be Church” (emphasis on outreach). The number 7 way to avoid being missional is “Go To Church” (emphasis on hanging out with your club every day). We want Village Soul to be a part of helping churches “Be Church.”