Church Without Walls

One of the Christmas presents I received from Ramona last year was the book “Prayer Evangelism” by Ed Silvoso. It has transformed how I look at ministry. I want to share with you a concept Silvoso shares that many in “the church” find difficult to accept. But I think it is one that is vital if we are going to reach the lost.

Silvoso shares the story of a pastor in the south of England who decided to introduce himself to shop owners at the local mall as their pastor. No, they didn’t attend his church; that was exactly his point. It occurred to him that he is the pastor of everyone in his city. If God put him in the proximity of people who are not saved, he has a pastoral responsibility to tend to the flock. Silvoso writes:

He asked their forgiveness for having neglected them in the past and announced that he would be making pastoral rounds regularly. At first, the shop owners did not know how to respond to this; but assuming that no trouble could come from it, they quietly acquiesced. Every day the pastor went by the mall, stopping at every shop, looking for opportunities to minister and soliciting prayer requests.

Allow me to interrupt Silvoso for a moment and ask you, before you read on, to take a minute and try to predict how this turned out. Did they write the pastor off as a nuisance? A nut? Did they quietly hope he would tire of this and go away? Okay, read on as Silvoso tells us what happened:

Soon he was praying daily for shop owners and occasionally for a customer referred by them. Today, this pastor is highly esteemed as the Mall Chaplain, and some there proudly introduce him as “my pastor.”

You can be forgiven if you didn’t see that coming. Because, as Silvoso argues, we have become the prisoners of the paradigm of the church walls. We are literally preaching to the choir. Silvoso makes the distinction between the fold and the flock. The fold are the sheep we have within the walls of the church already. But the entire community is our flock. Jesus kept stressing during His time on earth that He came for the lost. We don’t have to look hard to find them everywhere in our community.

How big is your church’s congregation? If you’re counting the people in the seats or pews each Sunday, Silvoso (and I) urge you to shatter that paradigm. The lost are your congregation, whether they are in bars, jails, schools, parks or hospitals. Ramona and I are blessed. We have been called to a ministry where we have limited access to a building. Our church is literally the two neighborhoods (two for now) to which we have been called to serve. Which is why God had Silvoso’s book virtually jump off the bookstore shelf into Ramona’s hands.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36 (NIV)

Yes, tending to the fold is vital. But the flock outside the church walls is equally vital. And Jesus didn’t just call pastors and church leaders to this task. Ask Jesus today to show you the lost sheep in your lives to whom you can be a shepherd. But be prepared. Once you start looking, you’re bound to find sheep everywhere.

This post is republished with permission from Oakbrook Church.

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