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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

Never miss a thing!


‘I’m a church leader. Where’s my frontline?’

Frontline: A place where you regularly spend time with people who don’t follow Jesus. 

As a church leader, it was a time of personal crisis that convinced me my frontline was important.  

I’d spent the first seven years of my career trying to fix a declining church. I’d worked an average of 70 hours a week, trying to get things going ‘at the church’. And at the end of that time, I took a sabbatical, utterly broken by the effort I’d put in and the disappointment that had resulted.  

It was during that tough season that I discovered the vision of whole-life discipleship – the idea that God cares about and works through every aspect of our lives, not just the things we do ‘at church’. That simple but profound truth transformed the way I imagined church and my work as a church leader. I caught a vision for how God fulfils his mission through people in their everyday contexts, on their frontlines. I was called to equip people for their daily lives.  

That also meant my mission as a Christian didn’t stop with my job – I had my own frontlines. My first steps towards mapping them out were tentative. It took a little while to understand the breadth of my frontline life. But over a couple of years, I came to see that my frontlines included different aspects of my whole life, including where I live, work, and play.   

My frontline is where I live 

Discovering the vision of whole-life discipleship opened my family’s eyes to see our street as part of our frontline. The first step was about noticing who was there, right on our doorstep. Our street lent itself to throwing a street party, so with the excuse of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002, we put out invites and closed the street. It worked: people came along and shared food and conversation.  

We’ve been putting on street parties for over 20 years now. We started a WhatsApp group off the back of one of them and now neighbours share their needs, their free items to give away, and their free advice – we rarely get a video of a dancing cat! Street parties may not work where you are, but everyone can find ways to build relationships with their neighbours, as daunting as it can be to take the first step. For those of us in church leadership, creating the space in church life for this kind of frontline ministry is key.   

During lockdown, I heard someone say that every home became a church and every street became a parish. When our world got smaller and our diaries emptied, our eyes were opened to the importance of our neighbourhoods as frontlines. 

My frontline is where I work 

Truth be told, initially I didn’t see my work as a church leader as one of my frontlines, but I’ve since come to see that it very much is. If a frontline is somewhere I spend time with people who aren’t yet Christians, then church venues can definitely be frontlines. Whether you meet people through the rhythm of weddings, funerals, and baptisms, or whether it’s regular interactions with builders, delivery drivers, and gas meter readers, the church venue is often a frontline for church leaders.    

Seeing our work as a missional frontline will change the way we engage with the postman or pray for the Pilates group that rent space in our building. Making the most of these frontline interactions is about being good news through our words, but also through our work – writing contracts that are a blessing to the small businesses that use our space, or paying attention to the people behind the many interruptions in our day. 

My frontline is where I play 

For me, this one was harder to realise, because I didn’t play much at all in my first seven years as a church leader. It was just head down, crack on. I’d go to the gym two or three times a week (fine – make that ‘once in a while’), but I didn’t engage with anyone while I was there. So after realising the importance of our everyday frontlines, I wanted to establish a hobby where I’d get to be with others. I’d been praying that God would help me find the right thing.  

Having said I didn’t engage with anyone at the gym, one day in the weights room I got talking to a South African guy who was built like a brick outhouse. He told me he and a few black cab drivers played squash on Thursday lunchtimes, and invited me to join in. So I did!  Squash had been my sport until I started working for our church, but I’d let it go.   

The squash club became part of my frontline life, and I learned so much about how to share my faith life there. I learned that yes, it was about the conversations I had with the guys in between games, where we talked about everything and nothing and occasionally the meaning of life. I learned that yes, there were opportunities to offer prayer, especially when Don was diagnosed with prostate cancer. But I also learned that it was about how I played the game itself – how I handled things when I lost or hit a bad shot. Sometimes I model godly character when that happens, but I’ve also had to apologise to the guys many times!  

That’s all part of the journey. And I tell these stories when I’m with my church. I’ve realised they don’t need me to be perfect – but they do need me to be living out the life I’m calling them to, and they do need me to be real and authentic with them. If I’m going to lead us towards becoming a whole-life disciplemaking church, it’s vital that I lead by example. 

Where are your frontlines? Where is God already working, and where might he be calling you to join him? Start by mapping your frontlines – then pray for connections to happen!

Steve Rouse
Church Team Director 

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