As Christian churches in the United States continue to allow themselves to be pushed further into the margins and lose influence on a national level, it becomes ever more important for congregations to establish relationships locally. No longer the authoritative moral voice in this culture, the church must now regain its contextual voice in the neighborhood. This can only happen through a congregation’s fuller understanding of its missional identity given by a missional God and embracing the accompanying vulnerability of mutual relationships in the local context.
Most of the literature published on church/culture relationships assumes numerical growth as a measure of success or some other congregational benefit as the goal of relationship. How incredibly self-serving! And how contrary to the nature of mission! The missional success of the church is not measured in “butts and bucks,” but in joining God already at work in the neighborhood. There are changes that are likely to occur in the church as a relational concept of catching up to God in the neighborhood is applied. Among these are a decrease in the measure of success through mere numerical growth, a wider variety of congregational worship and practices based on context, and a regeneration of scripture study and discipleship practices to grow in missional self-understanding. Further, a renewed emphasis on the congregation’s serving and being served as part of the neighborhood will likely emerge, rather than the use of the community as a resource from which to grow the congregation.