Published May 2004
Those Christians who work in missionary settings among non-Christian groups learned an important lesson long ago about communicating the gospel. You can build the church, ring the bell, and hope that folks will find their way to your doorstep. Or, you can immerse yourself in the culture, build relationships, and minister to people where they are. Needless to say, it is the latter route that bears the greatest fruit--and the greatest similarity to Jesus' own practice of proclaiming the gospel.
As churches in North America seek to grow and minister more effectively, they would do well to remember that they, too, live in an increasingly non-Christian culture. The churches that will succeed in reaching out to the unchurched in this society are those who have learned how to encounter such people on their own territory. Hence, one congregation brings visitors into their building, not through something foreign-sounding like a "narthex," but through a coffee and espresso bar.
In this and dozens of other ways, innovative congregations are reaching out to the unchurched. Kent Hunter names such forms of ministry the Jesus Enterprise. In this helpful book he tells the stories of churches where this kind of outreach has become the norm. More important, he also provides other churches the tools they need to identify the particular opportunities their context presents and ways to take advantage of those opportunities to present the gospel to those most in need of it.