BELLEVUE, Neb. — Pastor, professor and author David Fitch challenged American Baptist pastors to be “with” the people they serve inside and outside the church.
Fitch was the featured speaker at the 2014 Prairie Pastors Conference in Bellevue, Neb., April 28-30. Four ABC-USA regions from Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Kansas and Oklahoma joined to host the three-day conference.
The conference focused on Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier, a book Fitch co-wrote with Geoff Holsclaw. In it, the authors explain the current status of the church in a post-attractional, post-positional and post-universal language culture.
The people in neighborhoods surrounding churches no longer attend just because the doors are open, Fitch said. The days of thousands of individuals showing up for a revival meeting are past. It is time for the church to move into their neighborhoods to proclaim the kingdom of God.
A regular routine Fitch has adopted is to spend time at a local McDonald’s. At first, he went just to work and read, but realized God was there.
Like many church attendees, he had been told to tell others about Jesus. “I came to realize that place [McDonald’s] is an arena of the Holy Spirit. I just have to be present and attentive to it, and it changes the whole ballgame,” he said.
“There is a change needed to how we lead people into the kingdom of God. Our churches lack the imagination to recognize God at work at the places where we intersect in our communities.”
Learning to be aware of God outside the church opens space for the Holy Spirit to work, and opportunities for sharing the kingdom abound. The church needs to fully recognize Christ’s presence when members gather, Fitch explained.
The presence of Christ must be taken to the neighborhoods where there is opportunity for others to encounter the kingdom. And Christ must be shared in the everyday opportunities church members face in neighborhoods and communities.
The conference was hosted by New Life Baptist Church of Bellevue and sponsored by the American Baptist Churches of Nebraska, Mid America Baptist Churches, American Baptist Churches of the Central Region and American Baptist Churches of the Dakotas. The Ministers Council of each region also participated in planning.
Fitch is co-pastor and founder of Life on the Vine Christian Community in Chicago and coaches church planting for the Midwest District of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. He is the B. R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary in Chicago, and is author of The Great Giveaway and The End of Evangelicalism.
Robin Stoops is executive minister and region missionary of American Baptist Churches of Nebraska.