How long have we heard of the gathering cloud of change, of something new is happening, a paradigm change is afoot. It drives me insane reading time and time again I want to shout get on with it, but it is true change, there is a shift and we are in the edges of it. Transformation of mind sets, uprooting of paradigms of thinking, readjusting of traditions its all happening right around us all. No one can say I am the one, we are those who have arrived, who have it, we are all in the change like it or not, there is none further on than the other we are all experiencing change.
These winds of change are gathering strength and change is here… Every where i visit, every where i look and read, for as surely as God lives there is a quiet movement of the Spirit asking and causing people of faith to re-examine how they “do” their faith, what is this community called “church”, how does it manifest itself. Measures of success are being re-addressed people are saying “It’s no longer merely about size, seeker sensitivity, spiritual gifts, church health, nor the number of small groups. It’s about making a significant and sustainable difference in the lives of people around us—in our communities and in our cities”.
Community transformation is not found in programs, strategies, campaigns or tactics. But it is found in the “O yes”, “eureka”, the “aha” moment when one sees things in such a new light that one can never go back to the old ways again.
The change is radical, that when we see it we will discard the exiting to embrace the new. We begin to construct and see the will of God built. In our constructing we build while establishing what we have seen, our constructing deconstructs this is the only legitimate deconstruction that can happen. Not a deconstruction a pulling down a coming against what we do not agree with, but an embracing and constructing what we do see, and in the constructing the old falls away in deconstruction.
A new wineskin, as Howard Snyder once wrote about (New wineskins: Changing the man-made structures of the church 1977), is arriving and it will be required that we will needed to hold to the new assumptions about what is true.
Here are some changes to make in bringing about community:
From building walls to building bridges. “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13,14). Where we, as the church, see ourselves in relation to our communities. Not remaining outside of our world but being part inside our world, incarnating. Successful churches seek to grow by having attractive programs and offerings that people can come to and benefit from. The model of programs to attract had its strengths good plans, great programs, but it did not affect the community.
Try a new question “What can we do that would cause people to marvel and say, ‘God is at work in a wonderful way for no one could do these things unless God were with them?”’ Becoming a people who are bridges then the whole church becomes a bridge.
What about every one in the church becoming organ donors, Blood donors. Doing up homes, being involved in schools, active in reaching youth to life skill them, cleaning parks and streets, just being great people to live alongside and with.
The church is only limited by its creativity in how it can serve its community and be the salt and light it was meant to be.
Stop providing ministry programs for the community we are to be tho who are working on changing our relationship to a community.
From measuring attendance to measuring impact. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast…mixed into a large amount of flour until it has worked all through the dough” (Matthew 13:33). People are not impressed with the size or your commitment to “truth.” But they are excited and interested in people, individuals and communities that set their course to be transformational community-centred people. Let me suggest the greatest hermeneutic or apologetic for the reality of Jesus Christ living in a community will be observational. A faith that is observed, living out a life, a person who lives a life that we want others to grasp, this is living out truth.
Jesus was a master at combining words with comforting, touching, being with and providing, really being “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me TO….” Isa 61 & Luke 4
I recently saw a question on FaceBook that asked “What would Jesus think of “full time Ministry”, the focus was on “full time”, and how ridiculous that was, which it is. But my contribution was “I don’t think Jesus would understand ministry as we see it, as Jesus just lived life, his life was ministry, – Living Life is ministry. Not “Full Time” nor “Ministry” as we know it but life lived out in the light of the word.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Just as the apostle Paul was as “eager to remember the poor” (Galatians 2:10) as he was “eager to preach the gospel” (Roman 1:15-17). Effective life has always been holistic, combining good deeds with good news (Acts 10:36-38).
I recently of read of a people who lived in Arlington, Texas who just hung out with the street, meeting neighbours they became a house based existence that have today grown to nearly 250 community house churches (and nearly 4,000 in attendance) serving over 10,000 people a week with food, furniture, medical and dental care, school transportation, child and adult day care, counselling, etc.
If we asked what can Jesus do for a community? Would people of your village, town, street, city know? “Would the community weep if your church were to pull out of the city? Would anybody notice if you left? Would anybody care?”
Stop measuring, competing with size and start asking “How big is the impact you are having on your community?” Let us avoid a life style or a way of life that does not engage at all!
Encouraging, empowering, transforming, equipping for works of service.
“It is (God) who gave some to be…pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service…” (Ephesians 4:11,12)
We have a saying that 20% of the people do 80% of the work, could it be that it will be simply down to the few, could it be thats its due to narrow few possibilities that the “church“ offers as service is our issue, and these re the only ways that the church seems to make important to be involved with? Children’s work, youth groups, musicians, ushers and greeters, preaching and teaching etc.?
Is it simply we have not seen the broad enough circle, it is works of service to our world around not just to a church world? Perhaps we are not energising peoples passions. there is a boredom setting into church, from people who were so excited why? Perhaps serving community at large would change that, being the Kingdom and bring the /kingdom of God the order of God to our immediate world.
Ask yourselves “What could we do?”.
“What should we do?”
I wonder what creative answers would we get and what would we impart and invest in people into “works of service” that benefits society – The Kingdom of God.
Service a dirty word to move us from “serve us” to become outward service to the society and world around, rather than just to me, us an inward only view. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give…” (Mark 10:45).
History tells the story that the church in Russian in 1917 were prevented from doing “good works”, being Christians feeding, welcoming, housing, educating, caring within seven decades it had created an irrelevant church, a violent destruction of who we are, the ekklesia, the incarnation had been aborted. It said done “take away service and you take way the church’s power” blind eyes see, lame walk, people built up, feed, the chained released.
Erwin McManus of Mosaic Church in East Los Angeles says that the single biggest factor in his church retaining people is not personal follow-up or joining a small group; it is being involved from the very beginning in service to others in the community.
When members have told him that they want the church to meet their needs his reply is “You ARE the church and together we are called to meet the needs of the world.”
We grow and are healed as we serve others.
Is this what Isaiah (58:6-8) had in mind when he penned God’s words to his people: “Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter…? Then your light will break forth like the dawn and your healing will quickly appear.”
What if we stopped duplication services and ministries around us and realise we are to risk “losing people” while encouraging being connected, becoming one, or partnering with existing services and ministries. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work” (Ecclesiastes 4:9).
Every village, town, city has something its working into people that are morally positive and spiritually neutral that are doing their best to meet the needs of the underserved and under-resourced people of the community.
Food bank, Homeless shelter, Emergency family housing, Fostering and safe houses for abused people, as well you will find the people of God are busy living life towards specific target audiences. What about you and I not being so narrow that we would invest and support what we have started forming connections and partnering
People might already be involved celebrate their involvement let them see its the order of God the Kingdom of God in them that got them out there, don’t devalue but honour what they are involved with, give weight to it. Gods master stroke is to put resources in every church family, in order that the joints of flow across the church families can find each other, rather than just being jointed to those who attend with us, that look like us. (This is a very orphan spirt view rather than body of a mature son view).
This is God pattern of joining across divides, removing separations look at theses biblical demonstrations such as Nehemiah – Artaxerxes; Joseph – Pharaoh; Esther – King Ahusuerus. What waste of resources, time and money for each congregation trying to have their own thing, that the control and are dominant in when the expertise is sitting in another congregation that could move a whole village, town or city. Here are some movements to offer for ideas of change and impact:
Move from fellowship to functional unity.
Reality is that we have only one church in several/many expressions, each one belonging to one head. One church in a town, a city multiple expressions, not a competitive to have all the people with us. I would suggest that Philippians 2:2 says “…make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” United in one purpose around a seeing of a transformed community, restored to Christ filling all is strong enough to bring about a realisation that we are made one at the cross of Christ, not trying to find unity, but already united and taking our days to live in the light of that.
Seeing God as one, realising our union with God and with each other and being the demonstration of that seeing of God through our practical touch of life together, this becomes a symbols of a divine realty. Aligning has become a popular preached concept however what about not only seeing it as aligning with people but alining with God and aligning our purpose with many to be symbols of Gods life.
Community transformation will impact at the intersection of the needs and dreams, the calling, abilities and capacities of the people of God and the mandates of God for the people at large.
Emphasising compassion over power can help us sometimes that we realise our restoration is about taking a geography and making it into a community. How by involvement, mentoring, discipleship, training partnerships
Stop condemning a city you are blessed to be a blessing therefore blessing the city and praying for it. Jeremiah 29 “This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem…to those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.”
There comes the how to live as strangers, alines in a foreign land. “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (v. 7)
We are not adversaries to our communities.
We don’t lobby in pontificate declarations condemning the city and those who are trying to serve it.
Maybe it is time we began blessing the city by blessing those who have given themselves to the city!