We believe that every person is on a spiritual journey and as Christians part of our calling is to connect with people, love people and help demonstrate that the Kingdom of God is a reality for individuals and communities. The more people we include within our sphere of influence and friendship the more people we can connect with and love.
In reality the majority of those we help and assist will be offering needed welfare, help and support - rather like the washing feet servanthood model of Jesus (offering flip-flops instead of washing feet!) Conversations about faith may happen but only at a surface level.
By including those from outside of the church within our teams we are including those who may well be on a spiritual journey centred around Jesus but don’t feel they can express this within a Sunday morning church setting. We may also include those of no faith or other faiths but as a Christian organisation we recognise these are people God created, loves and includes and therefore we need to do the same. When we change the perception of our work to that of a church / Christian community within itself / the team we can offer discipleship, space for questions and conversation, prayer to one another. All church / Christian communities should be inclusive to those who believe differently or who are seeking / searching as we recognise that discipleship is a lifelong journey of learning, discovering and exploring. When you are on patrol or mopping up sick at 2am this is a good model of discipleship in action and a great place for those questions and conversations to take place.
Through including those outside the church in our teams we have seen people come to faith in Jesus or change views on Christianity. That we are church and community working together is a strong witness to police, local authorities, pubs and clubs, etc.
Within CNI Network we leave this decision to the local project - some are teams of church goers only, some started off that way and as volunteer numbers declined opened up volunteering to others and some have always included volunteers from outside the Christian church. Our suggestion is that church working with the community is the strongest model.