David Fitch has a great post on the idea of how moving from an attractional church to a missional church. He suggests that one of the most difficult aspects is that when we shift from bringing others in to our church we give up the power inherent in doing so. We maintain power over outsiders by controlling the environment we engage them in, by knowing the language, and by having a set of customs and behaviors that define the environment which are foreign to our visitors. All of this keeps us in a position of power and keeps everyone outside of our community as an "other". I couldn't read his post without thinking of the Others on Lost. But that is actually a helpful analogy.
On Lost there has been a major change over the seasons as the Others have moved from being a faceless enemy to people whose stories we know. Some of the Others have even become part of the group, and while many of them remained enemies, the lines between the survivors of the plane crash and those already on the island have blurred considerably. Even the worst of them, Ben, moves from hero to villain to sympathetic figure back to psycho path. It is a big shift moving from thinking about the Others to thinking about real people.
How can we be effective in meeting the needs and effectively sharing the Gospel with people who are simply the Others? So many churches and pastors (myself included) fall into the trap of talking about the lost or the broken or the people outside of our doors without ever attaching faces to this identity. Effective kingdom living doesn't take place while we hold a faceless identity out there that we are trying to reach. It happens when we are engaging with those around us in such a way as to know who it is specifically we are trying to love.
Laying down the power in evangelism is difficult, but necessary. Increasingly those outside of our doors will feel less and less compelled to ever enter our doors. If we don't abandon the power in our relationship with those we are trying to reach we will simply stop reaching them.
This shouldn't really be a surprise for us should it? After all isn't the point of the incarnation that Jesus gave up the power in order for us to relate to and understand his good news? It is just hard for us to emulate that kind of incarnational love because holding the power is just too comfortable.