REDEFINING CHURCH IN THE COMMUNITY
A REAL-LIFE STORY
In 2006, Scott and Amber Woller planted Corner Church with the vision of having a Corner Church and a valued-in-the-community business within walking distance of everyone in the urban dense communities in Minneapolis. Today, Corner Church is in three communities with three community coffee shops. The coffee shops, Corner Coffee, are local, independent coffee houses focused on adding value to the community. While the coffee shops are not run as Christian or church coffee shops, they are closed on Sundays, and all Corner Church services are held in the coffeehouse spaces. Having a community-focused business with a frequent and localized customer base is not simply about economic viability, it is missional as well. Rather than sitting inside a church building waiting for members of the community to come in, Corner Church has placed itself in the middle of the community. This intentional placement fosters relationships and, in turn, redefinition.
Corner Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, calls people to be redefiners as they seek to represent Christ clearly in community. Pastor Scott Woller knows the church culture where invitation and information are foundational elements to evangelism. In this culture, pastors task their parishioners with inviting everyone to come to church gatherings where they will receive all the pertinent information about Jesus and be invited to be saved. Woller doesn’t find this strategy to be as effective as it used to be in the past because, as he explains, people now have a very different view of the church.
Here is what he describes as the thoughts he now assumes someone has when he invites them to church: “Are you inviting me to your mindless, manipulative, abusive, hateful, right-wing, sexist, and bigoted group?” “Are you thinking your little presentation will change my opinion of you and make me want to become one of you?” “You say you love me, but you only want to count me as a religious victory.” Woller poses the question we all are asking: How can this distorted definition of church and Christians be changed? When a person has a bad experience at a restaurant, what does it take for him or her to go back? It takes more than an invitation and a promise that things have changed. Re-entry requires a redefinition built in a new reality.
EQUIPPING WHOLE-LIFE DISCIPLES
Because Churches for Monday see themselves as spiritual and economic engines of their communities, the places in which they serve flourish. By being embedded in the marketplace, the whole-life disciples translate the gospel and fulfill their call to be the contemporary incarnate witness for a holy God who desires shalom for all communities.
Churches that desire to equip for work become cultural anthropologists attuned to what is going on in the community, strategizing with the Holy Spirit toward inspired futures. When we do this the community will likely see our churches as an attentive and authentic neighbor thereby open their hearts to experience the full shalom of our Lord, welcome him as Savior, and experience holistic lift.
Corner Church services deliberately seek to be an environment for this type of whole-life discipleship. Rather than seeing pastoral teaching as a moment to simply tell people what to think, believe, and do, it is a moment to invite people into the process of being refined by Christ. This is done by bringing coaching principles and teaching into pastoral presentations. This results in sermons where teaching is punctuated by three or four intentional dialogue questions where tables of people are tasked with processing the content being presented. This process is messy but essential in moving from poor definitions of Christ and church, such as those without heart or practice, to pure definitions of Christ and church, where love is practical.
While there is organizational intentionality, relationship still comes out of people loving people. Corner Church encourages and empowers the church body to love their most local community first and to prioritize love for family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Corner Church calls the body to meet their local community’s needs early by not focusing on being a hero when the situation becomes dire, but rather they focus on building meaningful relationships long before a superhero is needed. Lastly, Corner Church advocates for doing this love and investment together. The Apostle Paul challenged Christ’s followers to see personal value while realizing we are incomplete and we leave others incomplete when we function alone.
Having a church in multiple communities that owns and operates multiple coffeehouses may sound glamorous, but in reality, it is incredibly arduous and risky. Planting a healthy church or starting a viable small business calls for endless miracles. Doing them together, apart from a clear calling of God, will end painfully and most likely abruptly. The call of God on Corner Church to keep planting in order to keep redefining, pulls them onward.”
Pastor Woller encourages us that redefining is not just about Sundays, but it is lived out every day of the week. In what way are you and your church redefiners as you seek to represent Christ clearly in your community?
An Excerpt from the book, “Church for Monday” by Dr. Svetlana Papazov.
Svetlana Papazov is Lead Pastor and Founder of Real Life Church, President/Founder of Real Life Center for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Excellence, a first of its kind model of church and business incubator that educates in entrepreneurship, leadership and faith praxis.