American writer Margaret J. Wheatly said, “There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”
What if we look at that statement from the vantage point of the Church? What if what we cared about was our community? Does our community exist to serve our church, or does our church exist to serve our community? If our church ceased to exist, would our community miss us?
Here are three reasons why the church can’t afford to just exist in the community and why it needs to exist FOR the community:
NO. 1 EVERYBODY DOESN’T KNOW.
It is easy to believe that because your church has existed for many years and has done the same Christmas production year after year, people generally know about you. But that is not necessarily the case. A great experiment is to ask a stranger working at the local convenience store or restaurant if they have heard of your church, and if so, what have they heard. You might be surprised by how many people in the community do not know your church even exists. For lots of people, church is not a priority.
One way to become known in the community is to begin solving problems. Ask yourself and your team, “What is the problem we are called to solve in our community?”
As the Church, we perceive people with our intentions, but to be honest, the public perceives us through our actions.
Everyone is willing to serve inside the church, but serving outside of the church and in the community produces hope through action. That is what your neighbours, your kid’s baseball coach, and the cashier at your local grocery store are waiting to see.
NO. 2 COMMUNITY UNLOCKS CONNECTIONS.
I’ve had the privilege to visit some amazing churches and learn under their leaders. There is nothing more compelling and beautiful than a growing, healthy, multi-faceted church.
These are the places where businessmen are training and helping those in financial hardships. Where public servants serve in the kid’s wing on Sunday, but through the rest of the week, they are partnering with food banks to provide lunches for the local schools.
There is no greater connection hub than a church filled with such a diversity of occupations, backgrounds and giftings. It is simply people helping people.
Branching into your community taps into opportunities that lead to the necessary connections in order to move the church forward. Partner with local businesses for your youth programs. Link arms with those aiding in addiction recovery and you will begin to see how the community can give new life to the church by bringing the broken-hearted through the doors.
The reputation your church has in your community is equivalent to the responsibility your church has in your community.
NO. 3 THE CHURCH WAS CREATED FOR THE COMMUNITY.
Jesus Himself met the needs first. It would have been simple for Him to roll into town, set up in the temple and operate only from there. Simple, but ineffective.
We operate outside of our purpose as a church when we only operate inside our walls. My church, your church, and the “Big C” Church is alive and active at this moment in time and how we choose to utilize our community will either alter or propel our progress.
Every person in your community is a gift and has a gift to be used in the body of Christ.
Nehemiah felt a call to leave his position of prominence with the King and return home to rebuild what had been destroyed. But he didn’t do it alone. He enlisted those in the community to work alongside him in the restoration. In the biblical narrative of Nehemiah, you’ll see members of the community received credits in the Bible for the part they played.
There has been much taken from our communities and the families in our cities. It’s not the Red Cross’ job, it’s the Cross’ job, and it’s time for the Church and community to partner in restoring hope wherever needed.