Invisible Church: Ministering From a Place of Privilege?

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 7.25.19 PMA BOOK REVIEW

“One thing I know from both the taxi and life, is that being invisible is hard and it is lonely and it hurts.”

Author Pat Green is my friend and I felt humbled and blessed to be at the pre-launch of his new book. I was saddened that the pub was not bursting at the seams with the scores of Christians and congregants that once followed his ministry. I’m sure that he was not surprised.

“Night Moves: An Ex-Preacher’s Journey to Hell in a Taxi” is a poignant account of Pat’s story and how rejection, divorce, brokenness and unemployment led him to driving a taxi and nightly encounters of human tragedy and loneliness.

It was just a couple of months ago that I realized that I was no longer seeing Facebook updates from Pat. I’m glad I found him and his writings once again but I am embarrassed to say that I never knew that his world had been turned upside down. To others, and myself Pat became invisible and there are many living just outside the walls of our churches who remain unknown. Pat’s introduces us to some of their stories.

“In a city that spans seven zip codes with well over 100,000 people, that boasts over 200 churches and has signs claiming all are welcome, she has to pay retail for her community.”

Pat found scores of broken people in need of community and found himself loved by his new TeleCab co-workers while at his lowest. When his father died of a heart attack, he returned to work and a card filled with warm condolences. His operations manager “did better than many ministers I know and we are trained for that stuff,” he shares. He continues, “I have almost every word in that card memorized.”

Where were we, church? Invisible.

Throughout the book there are convicting passages that exhort the church and her leaders to “stop trying to ‘minister’ from a place of privilege.” He recalls his time as a pastor thinking he was “the hero” with the answers but comes to grips with the disquieting truth that we have no solution.

11390067_1623615991243432_9128950744981564004_nI highly recommend this book – especially to my local pastor friends. These stories from the streets of Joliet are a wake-up call to those who may spend the majority of their time with planning and processes and miss what’s really going on with people. Real ministry takes place when we get involved in the real and raw everyday life of those in our communities. Pat reminds us that we “are never going to change the streets with a church. All a church can be is an oasis…” “Jesus did not go out among the people and help them find a synagogue home. He invited them to live together in the trenches.”

I am a non-fiction reader and usually have a hard time reading short stories, but Pat has a way with words and making every scene come to life. I loved every easy-to-read chapter and was astounded by Chapter 28 “We’ll Fix It.” I didn’t even use a highlighter until the end of the chapter leaving behind a brightly inscribed WOW!

If you pick up your own copy of the book – you will laugh, you will cry, and hopefully you will be changed forever. The lives of others depend on it. We cannot remain invisible!

WARNING: This book does contain language, but so do the streets.

 

Understanding the Unchurched

churchless-headerIf we want to reach those who choose not to be a part of the church, we need to know how they think. George Barna and David Kinnaman of the Barna Group provide us with a wealth of surprising trends from two decades of interviews and analysis in their new book Churchless: Understanding today’s Unchurched and How To Connect With Them.

The number of unchurched adults in the U.S. has grown almost one-third larger in the last decade and so a book that helps us know how to connect, invite, and engage is timely and life giving. Churchless is quick to point out that “young adults have the highest levels of church avoidance and that they expect to contribute not just consume (as evident by their ability to create, edit, connect, and share their opinions online). The authors suggest, “If you consider how most churches deliver content – appointing one person as the authority and encouraging everyone else to sit (consume) quietly while he or she speaks – it is easy to see how that delivery system can come into conflict with changing cultural expectations.”

Even if you don’t agree with the suggested methodologies in the book, it would be wise for every elder, pastor and ministry leader to pay attention to the “cries” of the unchurched and ask the hard questions for God has called us to reach them with the Good News of the Gospel. Those who found church least favorable included men, the Mosaics (ages eighteen to thirty), and those who never married to name just a few. They don’t see church as a meaningful place of community.

There are many insights and recommendations. The key to reaching them, the authors suggest, is to listen to them. We need to know what they are thinking and contextualize to make an impact. We need to be able to back up our claims in a world of skepticism and involve them in difference-making projects.

When we listen to them we also must change some of our assumptions. “To assume that churchless people are irreligious or have no spiritual dynamic is to misunderstand many of them.” I agree whole-heartedly. I have found in working with and entering the stories of young people that many of them are quite spiritual and crave an authentic spiritual experience and life. At the same time, they want to be heard and given an opportunity to ask the hard questions. And we don’t have to always have all the answers. The book addresses why the church is still important and how to navigate a post-Christian culture.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishing in exchange for my opinion. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.