Last time, in Communities on Mission to our Neighborhoods (Pt. 3), we looked at three basic steps to engaging on mission to our neighborhoods, campuses, and communities. Today we will take these three “theoretical steps” and work them out practically.
The goals we have been talking about the last few days might seem daunting, and they certainly are going to be difficult to accomplish. However, as God’s people we are far more powerful than we think we are. We can make a profound difference in our neighborhoods, communities, and cities – far greater than we believe we can. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, guiding us that engagement with neighborhoods will succeed.
Earlier I had said that The Church is called to be a community of believers centered around Christ. Also I said that the Church is called to meet the needs of those outside of The Church. One of these basic human needs is the need for community. The Church can help create community by meeting other basic needs of individuals within un-unified communities. How does meeting the basic needs of individuals create a community? As we go around finding, and meeting the needs of residents within the community, we hope and pray that people will be encouraged to give back and invest within their own community. As we go around meeting the needs of these residents I believe that the spirit of love and service will become contagious, and the residents will desire to come alongside of us and help others in their own neighborhood. Serving their neighbors and working alongside them will create the familiarity needed in order to have authentic community.
This task is not groundbreaking or revolutionary, it feeds upon several basic human truths: people have basic needs that they desire to have met, people were created to live in community, only Christ offers the type of love which is able to sustain true community. This project takes and seeks to address these truths.
In order to do this you can begin by creating teams which go within the community to find the needs of individuals within the particular neighborhood (it certainly is best if these teams are actually a part of the community). Once the needs are discovered, they can be addressed. These needs might range from a need for prayer, to a need for food because of financial difficulty, or even a need for yard work to be done because the resident is physically disabled (these are common needs in the Suburbs). By showing God’s love for these people, and meeting their needs, hopefully those being helped will see God’s love manifested within us and will feel the desire to love others in their community. The non-Christians who engage in loving works will be doing good deeds for the sake of other humans. Christians who engage in loving works will be doing good deeds for the glory of God. These acts of love will be attributed to Christ. It was once said “preach the gospel and if necessary use words.” I believe it is more appropriate to say “preach the gospel and when necessary use words.” Those being helped must know that this is more than just an act of service that springs out of the heart of nice people. Christ must be glorified through our actions and through words.
The following is the process by which my church engaged in reaching out to its surrounding neighborhoods.
This project was broken into an period of 6 weeks of service and at least 2 weeks of preparation prior to the service (total of 8 weeks). The first two weeks consisted of an orientation. This orientation included the addressing of goals, training, and a lot of prayer. The first week of service served to introduce ourselves to the community. During this week, the door to door team went throughout the neighborhood finding out the needs of the residents. (We also recived “need” through our local government, they informed us of some larger community needs.) During weeks 2-5 the service team will helped meet those needs. The door to door team continued to follow up on the initial needs and any further needs that might arise during this period. The sixth week was a “celebration”/a block-party/barbeque in which all the members of the community were invited to participate in.
This project will consisted of three teams: 1-a designated prayer team, 2-the door to door team, 3-the service teams. Team leaders were assigned. This project requires at least 6 weeks of commitment. The level of commitment will vary depending on the individual’s leadership role. (Ideally this 6 week experiment leads to a long term commitment to the community around the church.)
As I have said earlier, this is was a long term project with the ultimate goal being a self-sustained Christ-centered community, which can in turn reproduce itself in other communities. This cannot likely occur within a 6 week period. Therefore the first 6 weeks is only the first phase of the project. Hopefully there will be multiple phases in which the responsibility of fostering growth within the community will shift out of the church’s hands and into the hands of the community itself.
As with any new project which seeks to glorify God, much prayer is needed. Prayer will be our most effective tool. May God be glorified and may he take pleasure in our service to him. May God be glorified as you try this out too.