Monday, April 27, 2015

Knowing Your Community: Who Do You Ask?

Jesus' incarnation is the model He calls His church to follow.  "As the Father has sent me, so also do I send you." (John 20:21).  Our Lord immersed Himself into the lives of others, and calls His people to reach the world in His name in the same manner.

In light of this reality, nothing is quite so ironic as a church that has completely lost touch with its community.

In the last post, I listed some tangible ways churches could measure whether they have lost touch with the people to whom God has called them.  Today, I want to address the issue of how to re-establish connection with your community.  In particular, who are the best people to ask about your community?

1. Ask your neighbors.  Neighbors usually see it as in their best interests to keep abreast of what is happening in the community.  While pastors are often focused exclusively on what is happening at the church, their neighbors are generally aware of new local laws, public hearings about new businesses, and other issues that may affect the community.

Additionally, neighbors are also a diverse bunch. Though they may all live in the same neighborhood, they get into their cars each and every morning and drive off to very different places to work.  Each therefore has a different perspective on the realities surrounding the community, and each of these perspectives are valuable.

2. Ask the local school principals.  Local school administrators keep a close eye on the children enrolled in their institutions, and they can generally connect academic performance to realities in the home.  Those who teach and lead in local schools are also usually aware of "good" and "bad" neighborhoods, as well as needy families.  They are an excellent source of information that can be connected to tangible needs the church can meet.

3. Ask the police.  Police officers see the worst parts of humanity, and most don't have to be convinced that our world is fallen, because they are keenly aware of how depravity has manifested itself in those who presume to break the law.  But police also see most clearly where the greatest needs are in a community or city, and they are anxious for help from anyone who might be able to make their job easier.

I remember telling a police officer; "my prayer is that I can do enough of what I do, and the result is that you won't have to do as much as you do."  Cops understand that, and generally appreciate the church's cooperation and partnership.

4. Ask the sewer department.  Didn't expect to see this one, did you?  But if you want to know where new growth areas are occurring in your city and/or community, this is where you go.  The local chamber of commerce will tell you where they want growth to take place, but no municipality goes through the expense of installing new sewer lines unless growth is actually going to occur there.  Ask the folks who lay sewer pipe and you will get an accurate picture of future growth.

5. Ask the Lord.  God loves your community.  Jesus died for your community.  And He has placed your church there to reach them, and to serve them.  He already knows their needs, and how He wants your church to meet them.  Ask Him for wisdom.  Ask Him to open the eyes of your church to the realities around it.  And ask Him to give you what you need to make Jesus more widely known where He has planted you.

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