We don't use the term parish a whole lot, and though it may technically be defined by geography, it also refers to the people who would identify one man as their pastor. In a sense Community Presbyterian Church could be described as a parish with me as the pastor. But a large part and purpose in my evangelism work is to build a parish of around 200 non-Community folks who would eventually call me pastor. These are those unchurched, non-Christian, non-church-going people who have no intent to set foot in our, or any other, church building ... hopefully some eventually might, but most never will. This is a hard work in a field that has been largely ignored by the church over several generations. We (the evangelical churches in America) have focused our efforts on attracting those who are already converted, who are looking for a church to attend, and trying to convince them that we're the best show in town. But that group is rapidly disappearing. I trust you saw the statistics I distributed last week that even here in St. Clair County Alabama 52% of the population defines themselves as "none" when it comes to religious affiliation. No longer can we self-righteously shake our heads in disgust at ungodly places like Europe, Arabic nations, Indonesia, etc. ... people in our own neighborhoods are not attending church.
My great desire is to see my two parishes collide on a regular basis. By definition, the not-interested-in-church parish isn't going to seek out the church-going crowd, so the challenge is to motivate and facilitate ways for us church-goers to explore the other parish. A couple of days ago I had the privilege and joy with two other CPC guys to get dirty with some from my other parish. We helped clean up an old cemetery owned by one of my friends who's too old to adequately maintain it. We mowed, cut weeds, raked, bagged trash, and whatever else needed doing for several hours. Our being there did not result in any immediate conversions, no one spoke any prophesies, no tongues of fire descended from heaven, nobody gave their life to Christ, and no one asked to be baptized. But there were some new relationships built, some friendships strengthened, some questions asked, some doors opened ... we inched our way into the lives of some men who desperately need the Gospel, and we hope to press in deeper as the Lord allows.
Please pray for my parishes ... for Community Church and for the 200 other non-church folks I'm hoping will call me "pastor" as our friendship grows. And if you ever want to explore the world of the unbeliever, give me a shout. I truly want CPC to be a church family who loves unbelievers and lives out the Gospel in front of them. It's a beautiful thing when these two parishes collide!