One of the things I say a lot when I am talking to churches goes something like this (I doubt I say it the same way every time) – Your church is where it is for a reason. God has placed you there on purpose to love and serve and bring the Good News to the people around you and as a movement, we are asking you to take responsibility for your communities.
I have been thinking about the implications of that little statement. There is some stuff we probably need to think about if that is true. None of this is all that new (or even revolutionary), but it is stuff we need to keep in mind:
- All means All
If we are where we are on purpose and by God’s design, then it follows that would mean, all the people. Sometimes I fear we look at who is in our midst and pick some people to whom we love, serve and bring Good News. We leave others out because they are the “them” or “those people”. So we say that other churches or a church plant can look after “them”. But I don’t think we have that option. We are responsible for all the people God has placed near us – rich, poor, old, young, etc. etc. By the way, this isn’t all about discrimination. Sometimes we can idolize a “group” or “type” and turn them into trophies we collect and display instead of people God has asked us to care for. You know, when we proudly talk about having more of a certain demographic or group and we imply that we are doing real ministry in contrast to others (but that seems like a rant for another article)
- Cast a wide net
While I realize we won’t be able to reach everyone, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. God is at work all around us. We need to be attentive and responsive to His lead.
- Know your Audience
It would follow that we need to get to know our communities. Do we know our communities? Have we walked around and discovered who is around us? Have we talked to community leaders and found out what the needs are? Have we showed up at community events? Have we done prayer walks around us? All of these would be good starts.
- Get Your Priorities Right
When we plan and pray and follow God, we need to remember that our first job as a church is not to get our neighbors into our church. Our first job is to get our church people out into our communities. That idea will impact how we plan and train and implement.
- Be Prepared
As we do what God asks us to do, in terms of taking responsibility for our communities, we need to always be asking a very important question – “What if this works?” What if people show up or (better) come into a relationship with Jesus? Are we ready for next steps? We need to be.
Just some stuff to think about as we do what God calls us to as His church. Hope they help.
Leadership Development Director, the Free Methodist Church in Canada.