"The Western world, at the start of the third millennium, is best described as a ‘network society’. This is a fundamental change: ‘the emergence of a new social structure’. In a network society the importance of place is secondary to the importance of ‘flows’."- Mission-shaped churchI've had this conversation a couple of times with pastors. Whenever we talk about church growth and evangelism, they begin to talk about the need to "reach out to the community." By "our community" they mean the odd number of city blocks that surround the physical structure they happen to meet in on Sunday. Because "God has put us in this building." they say, the people who live in proximity to our church building are our mission field.
What they fail to consider is that as they struggle to get members to participate in activities that "serve the neighborhood," social pressures in the neighborhood are forcing the people they are trying to reach into activities outside of it. While we want to get together and socialize with our neighborhood family, they are all out socializing with other people, at their jobs, in their schools, and at various other activities they have committed to.
By trying to "serve the neighborhood" we have in addition to sharing the Gospel, taken on the Sisyphean task of reversing the evolution of culture. A mission we were never called to. It would be much easier to begin to think about the kind of networks our congregation lives in and build our outreach there.