We learned many lessons from Rosa's story. The whole experience demonstrated very clearly the importance of church being missional, (Luke 10:3) rather than attractional. Here are some of the reasons:
- Jesus said, "As the Father sent me, so send I you." If I had failed to obey the impression I had to walk along a certain street, we would have never seen a church born in the low-income housing projects. This very nearly happened. It took me two months to finally get out and walk Oltorf–and it was only the approaching heat of a Texas summer that galvanized me into action.
- In both the Great Commission, and wherever Jesus commissions his disciples to reach out, he tells his disciples, "Go," or more accurately in the Greek, "As you are going…" The implication is that in our daily life, we always have a "sent' mentality. We are constantly on mission with God, seeking to find specific people he will identify to us, and to interact with them in such a way as to introduce the Kingdom of God into their lives.
- When we go, we are the ones who cross cultural barriers. If we ask people to come to our churches, even our simple/organic expressions of church, we expect them to change cultures and do things they wouldn't do in any other context. When we go, we are the ones to get out of our comfort zones and to enter their culture. Although the low income housing projects are a very familiar culture to Tony and me (we had lived and worked for many years in a similar area in London), it was still out of our comfort zone. In many ways Rosa's family already exemplified Biblical standards in their sense of family and community. For example, there were frequent occasions when they would bring someone to live in their small apartments because they had no space to stay, and if one of them had a need, they willingly shared their resources, often to their own detriment. But in general, the environment of the projects was one of crime and violence, drugs and alcohol, prostitution and family brokenness. Marriages were scarce; children of single mothers the norm.
- If we bring a person to church, we extract them from their own environment and community and potentially lose the opportunity to reach their circle of influence. If we had invited Rosa to the church that met in our home, we might have won Rosa, but we would have never touched her family and friends. In the book of Acts, there are few examples of individuals finding Christ (Paul and Ethiopian eunuch), but many examples of households or groups becoming disciples together. This can happen when church is started in their context rather than ours.
- When we go, we can bring the Kingdom into their context in relevant ways. For example, we didn't immediately introduce sung worship. Worship songs did eventually play an important role because they are a means of teaching good theology in a primarily oral culture, but they would have been totally irrelevant in the beginning. Of far greater importance was the fact that Jesus cared about them which he demonstrated by answering their prayers. Another example: we used a very simple version of the Bible–one easily understood by those with little formal education. Everything was very practically oriented, geared to life in their environment. They weren't interested in theological questions, but found the basic message of the Gospel and the lifestyle Jesus talked about both compelling and relevant to their world. One day we took Norman Barnes, a friend from England, to meet them. He suggested to them that they write down the things they had done wrong, the things they wanted Jesus to deal with, on a piece of paper, which they put them into a pan. He then covered it with a red cloth, symbolizing the blood of Jesus. We took the pan outside and burned the papers. Norman asked them to find their sins–of course, they couldn't because they were ashes. The blood of Jesus dealing with their sin was a lesson they referred back to constantly after this.