This is where all the children yell, "JESUS!"
Too many church conversations tend to revolve around what the church needs. I find a more productive path in considering how a church might give ourselves away to the community. Pick any Jesus story, or Jesus disciple story, and find models of how this might still have transformational impact today- both for the servant and the one served.
Find here some values, some lifestyle, some practices which every church would do well to share. I wonder if any churches orient their ministry practices and calendars around this? I don't have all the answers on what this looks like in your church and community. Rather, I suspect that it can be tailored to any context, any church scale, and stands the biblical and theological test. It may be a way of assessing our church efforts, activities, and practices. The larger challenge may be helping the church out of the routines and into a new way of mission and ministry.
I'm thinking about this both in individual and corporate terms. I'm also thinking of this as defining for the church for strategy and lifestyle. How might worship, discipleship, prayer, fellowship, outreach, etc. revolve around these sorts of primary church functions? It is certainly challenging to think of church activities through this lens. Personally, many of these concepts have high appeal and seem to be priority needs for many individuals and communities today. It doesn't matter if you are moderate, conservative, or liberal theologically. But I'm afraid that many churches- many sermons, much teaching, and activity-never delves into these areas. Is it that they are too controversial, or that for institutional church, and keeping the majority happy, we prefer watered down, controlled, "folk like us" sort of religion? Or, most likely, we just know to do what we've learned to do, and change beyond our experiences is very intimidating. Group change is some next level of challenge!
As we seek to love God, and love our neighbors (as we do ourselves!), perhaps we'll hear what our community needs of our church. Watch the news, listen to the stories of locals, and imagine your church reorienting itself to your neighbors. Live your way into the next chapter of church ministry based on God and your neighbors and see what develops. Prayerfully evaluate your current church activities in light of the higher claims of the Gospel. If your church stuff doesn't hit any of these it may be worth questioning. Also, which of these can be done inside a church building, which must be practiced beyond the church walls, and what are the bridges or connecting points between the building and the community?
Here are the 5 things the community needs your church to be doing today:
- Reconciling- e.g. 2 Corinthians 5:11-21
- Neighboring- e.g. Luke 10:25-37
- Empowering- e.g. I Thessalonians 5:12-22
- Healing- take your pick from MANY stories of Jesus in the Gospels!
- Redeeming- e.g. Galatians 4:1-7 & our role in helping our community know and experience they are adopted by God.
Give it a go! Such activities might very well change the world!