The other night I had a vivid dream. A dream I actually remembered! It was very clear and instructive. I believe that I might have had one of those dreams described by Peter in the Book of Acts.
“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Acts 2:17
I’ll let the reader be the judge of that though…
For me, however, it made a lot of sense! Especially when you begin to combine the concepts of 7 Mountain Influence, the Great Commission of the good news of God’s Kingdom, and being the “market place ministers” we are called to be. (Please see previous Blog articles that describe these concepts individually)
If the church is going to remain relevant in a culture, it must be part of the culture. The message must remain pure, but the delivery may change.
I once attended a pastor’s conference where they talked about different church models and reaching the culture. It was fun to watch the speaker pour water from one pitcher to the next- beginning with what looked to be a pitcher from the Flintstones to a very modern concept of a pitcher. The speaker asked, “What is most important… the pitcher or the water?” Everyone answered, “The water is most important.” So, it isn’t the vessel from which the water is poured, as long as the water is poured?
The same holds true for the Gospel.
What if the “delivery” of the message was different from what it was in the past, but the message was pure?
So how does Kroger fit into all this? Well, if you look at the history of retail, it is easy to see it remained basically the same for centuries. That is until the 1900’s.
As a kid growing up in Detroit, three of the most central suppliers of our family’s daily needs were supplied by Chatham Super Market, Sears and K-Mart (there were specialty items that might have been purchased from local retailers such as Dan Fleming’s Drug Store and Kosmea’s Meat Market, Dairy Queen, etc.). But by far the bulk of our shopping consisted in the main three.
But things began to change for the retail industry. New entrants into the arena like Target and Wal-Mart started to change the way we shopped. Eventually “big box” retail became the norm and some of the past famous players literally went out of business.
Kroger has continued to adapt and prosper in this extremely competitive environment. Some Kroger stores are expanding to include some of the same items you might find in a Meijer or Wal-Mart. But they have gone one step further.
Kroger has a gas station and mini-mart… and they aren’t always next to a Kroger Supermarket location; they are free standing in the surrounding neighbor hoods.
Notice that they are still in retail. They still sell products that people need. But they are expanding to include products that are regularly needed and providing them in more convenient locations.
I believe this is where the message to the church begins. If we want to be relevant to the people we are serving, we need to continue to meet their needs the same way we always have. But if we want to become relevant to others who may never come to church, we can be in the community sharing the same pure message, but it different locations, more available to meet regular needs.
What this looks like exactly, I don’t know. The first idea that comes to mind is a coffee shop. I am not saying that the church staff has to operate the coffee shop. I would hope that the church would co-operate with those who actually are running the place to offer encouragement and possible strategies to meet the customer’s spiritual and emotional needs. What I really am saying is, that those with a PASSION for coffee, or business run the coffee shop, but in a way that their spiritual gifts and passions are used to bring the Kingdom of God to those who frequent the shop. Those that run the coffee shop would be “Marketplace Ministers.” And their “pulpit” would be the counter, the table tops or the music being played.
Obviously the coffee shop is just one idea; and one that many churches have already been doing. But what are other ideas where normal, everyday Christians can live their faith while pursuing their goals and dreams… and possibly working in concert with their local church leaders to having everything working on all 8 cylinders?!?
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13
But imagine this… the leaders in the “four-wall church” working together with those who minister in the market place bringing the Kingdom of God to earth through our efforts, so that the Good News that Jesus preached could be shared and lived in the day-to-day lives of those in our sphere of influence; using the gifts and passions that make work and life FUN! This effort would transcend the wall of the Sunday gathering place and fully permeate our Monday through Saturday lives as well.
Kind of like Kroger seems to be doing.