“…In many churches today, the primary question being asked is, how do we get more members? Behind this is often a painful awareness of the patterns of institutional decline and the need for more 'bodies and bucks' in the pews to sustain things. This is not the primary question we should be asking. Instead, we should be wondering, what is God up to in our neighbourhood? How do we join up with it? What is our unique calling, both personally and communally? How are we gifted to contribute? This is a very different kind of question to answer, for it forces us to attend prayerfully and carefully to God's life and movement in the biblical narrative, the wisdom of faithful Christians through the ages, in our own midst, and in the lives of our neighbours. Instead of strategizing about how to attract or include those neighbours into our churches, we are pushed out into the world, to rely upon their hospitality. That is how Christ comes to us.
One of the things that the paradigm of establishment did to the church was to try and fix the sacred geographically - within consecrated church buildings, tended by consecrated people (clergy). While Christian theology has historically affirmed God's presence and movement beyond the assembled community in the wider world, establishment tended to deemphasize it. If you wanted to meet God, you 'went to Church' - meaning to a building set aside for this purpose. If you want to introduce people to God, you invited them 'to church.' Outside the 'church' was secular space, seen as ambiguous, threatening, or at the least indifferent to the sacred.
When we gather around Word and Sacrament, we receive vital, life giving, tangible expressions of God's presence that allow us to interpret the divine outside of the assembled community. Yet this narrowed imagination about God's presence, which corresponds with the rise of Christendom during the Middle Ages, bears some responsibility for so many people leaving the church today. They reject a God domesticated to rather arcane rituals done by designated 'holy' people set apart from them and confined in antiquated buildings. They seek ways of experiencing God in daily life, in nature, in ordinary relationships. Despite its best intentions, the church has often failed to offer these people practices and language that would help them recognise the sacred faithfully in their world. The church has also communicated the message (explicitly and implicitly) that God primarily shows up on Sunday mornings or in church meetings and not at the job site, during the daily commute, at the office, or around the dinner table at home. Establishment's legacy of a church-centric imagination hinders us from seeing God at work in the neighbourhood, which is unfortunate, because that's where our future lies.
In the incarnation, God entrust Godself to the hospitality of the world. The Word 'who was with God and who was God' came into the world, 'yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.' (John 1:1, 10-11)."
Dwight. J Zscheile, People of the Way. Morehouse Publishing, New York, 2012. 75 - 76