Back in 2016, Amanda and I went to Germany. A good friend of mine who lives there invited us to his wedding, and we jumped at the chance to go. We flew into Frankfurt, which is really the city of Frankfurt and three large suburbs – total population of just under 800,000. While we were there, we dropped in on the Nazarene church in Frankfurt, called Church in Action.
They held worship in a movie theater. There were around 300 people there, and it was a format very similar to ours (but, you know, in German). It turns out we got lucky because they only meet every-other-week. After the gathering, I met the lead pastor, Philip. When he found out I am a fellow Nazarene pastor, he got super excited. “Do you want to preach for me tonight?” he asked?
I blinked. Um… yes of course I do… but, like. What?
He laughed and explained: their church wasn’t actually this gathering we’d just attended. They actually have more than 25 micro-congregations spread out among Frankfurt and its three suburbs. Some of them look a little like traditional church – like the place I’d be preaching that evening.
But a lot of them didn’t look much like ‘church’ at all – there was a group that had befriended a lot of the sex workers in Frankfurt, and worked to help them get into safer careers. Another goes to the hospital and holds a prayer service in the chapel for any patients who want to join them. The place where Philip invited me to preach for him is a rooftop bar in one of the suburbs. On Sundays, it opens at 7pm, so Church in Action holds a small gathering before they officially open. A guitar player leads a couple of songs and then Philip offers a short, informal teaching.
This particular Sunday, he’d just returned from a long trip, and having he was ecstatic when I agreed to cover for him, as long as he translated. My German wasn’t nearly good enough to preach a whole message.
So anyway, that’s how I ended up preaching at a bar in Germany one time.
Church in Action gets a ton of attention from church leaders because they’re a growing church in a culture – Europe – that doesn’t care about church anymore. In fact, Europe today looks exactly like where the US is heading if church attendance keeps trending the way it has been for the last 50 years or so.
Church in Action’s secret sauce is in their name – they broke church out of the box of the church building and set people free to follow the Spirit to do whatever the Spirit is leading them to do – visit the sick, make friends with prostitutes, preach in bars.
So today, as we approach the end of our own season in a building, I want to ask what it might look like for us to follow the Holy Spirit out of the box.