By Andrew Smith
In part one of this blog post, I talked about the opportunity this pandemic season might provide us as leaders in the church to re-think some of how we do what we do. Might the forced shifts we’ve experienced help us make some changes in order to rediscover the fullness of the mission God has called us to – a mission that should be truly transforming our community in tangible ways. Could God use this painful season to prune away some of the old to make room for new expressions of life and wholeness both in the church and in our community?
Unfortunately, if the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that many in our community are not experiencing the holistic wellbeing that God desires for all of us, whether that’s physical, emotional, relational, or in terms of justice. But these very real needs, that the pandemic in many ways exacerbated, did not begin with the spread of the virus and won’t end just because infection rates go down.
The need is large, and often overwhelming. But if this is the invitation and call of God for his people, how do we take this on?
First, we have to acknowledge that we can’t do it by ourselves.
No single church, no matter how big, can solve the challenges that our community and neighbors face alone. This probably isn’t a new thought. In fact, it’s often a source of frustration. (“What can we really do anyway?”)
But what if we weren’t working alone?
What if we began to see “the church” in our community instead of “our church” and “that other church down the road.” Often our efforts as churches to care for those around us have been limited, or even duplicated, because we only thought in terms of what our church was doing – “What problem can we tackle?” But what if we started asking a better question: What could we accomplish together that we can’t accomplish alone?
This is the kind of unity that Jesus prayed for the church, not just that we would share some core beliefs (mind and spirit) but that we would share his purpose of bringing real, tangible hope to our community too.
Second, we need to change how we serve.
For too long we have done what’s easy or what benefits our church members rather than what brings lasting change and empowers others. (Sorry if that’s blunt.)
I speak from experience. In my years of ministry, I’ve led almost every kind of serving event you can think of: food distribution, backpack drives, Christmas gifts, Thanksgiving meals, meals for homeless, house repair, summer day camps for kids, neighborhood cleanup, and more. And often after those events I would wonder… Are the people we served really better off? Will their lives be different a year from now? Did they get a better sense of their inherent worth as God’s creation because of our interaction or did they feel like a need that someone else had to meet?
These are the types of questions I believe we need to begin to ask if we are really going to take on God’s call to love our neighbors well. But to answer those questions well, we will need to take the posture of learning. We need to learn from others who understand why health and wholeness aren’t happening in our community. (spoiler alert: often that involves hearing from the people actually experiencing it.) And we need to learn new models that shift the focus back toward those we are serving – models that empower, dignify, and build the kinds of mutual relationships that Jesus modeled in his ministry.
Third, now is the time.
I actually don’t think there is a better time to step more fully into God’s call to be about the wellbeing of our community than now. And I know, this may all feel like one more thing to pile on to our already overflowing ministry plates – plates that we may already feel we can’t manage in this season.
But the needs have never been clearer. And culturally, our community needs to see the goodness and love of God in action as much or more than they hear it from our churches. There’s no better way to help people rediscover the beauty of God and his church than for us to lean into the tangible expression of his love for others.
And what’s amazing is that this doesn’t have to be another program on your to-do list.
It’s actually about unleashing the passion and calling of every person in the church, to express God’s love in everyday ways based on how God has wired them.
And it’s about us taking on this mission as one church in our community – doing together what we can’t do alone. It can be as simple as loving our literal neighbors. Imagine if every church member in our community just intentionally got to know and cared for 2 of their neighbors. Or, learning to work in collaboration, imagine if each church in our community discovered and lived i its unique role in a larger movement of the church to take on some of the most challenging issues our community faces.
What better way to show our community that the good news really is good news than recapturing the truly transformative mission God has called us to – to care deeply, tangibly for those around us? And there is no better time to start than now.
Interested in seeing what collaboration with other leaders could look like? We can help! Fill out our contact form to get in touch or schedule a call directly with our team to learn more about our engagement opportunities.