Becoming a church for the community

Soon after I started pastoring, I was told our city was in the Guinness Book of Records for the most churches per capita. This bit of faux trivia began to captivate my mind and I could not let it go. I couldn’t reconcile the overwhelming number of churches with the unchecked suffering I saw each week. 

Around this time, I preached out of Jeremiah and one verse in particular started to shape my vision for my community. It was Jeremiah 29:7: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” 

In a time of physical exile, the Israelites were called upon to bless their captors. We are living in cultural exile. What would it look like for us to seek the welfare of the city where God has sent us? I asked myself that question repeatedly. I felt God telling me to share that same message with others, and soon they were convinced, as well. Here are some things to consider as you help your church become a church for the community:

Dream with God

Dreaming with God can feel dangerous. You need to ask yourself what it could look like in your context to display the love of God. What ills need to be addressed? What wrongs need to be undone? What could He have for you and your people? I have found God’s dreams to be far loftier and better than my dreams. 

What started as an idea—a dream—has grown six years later to include the cooperative efforts of 36 churches in my city to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We prayer-walk, share the gospel, pull weeds, paint, build, clean, and whatever we can to show the love of Christ together for the glory of God.

Work with people

You can’t accomplish your task alone. I called many non-profits in town to ask them what they would think of all of the churches coming together to help them accomplish their mission. I called pastors and took them to lunch. Working across denominational, ethnic, racial, and socio-economic lines is good for you and the people of your community. This collaborative work under the banner of King Jesus is the kind of cooperation a skeptical world needs to see. 

Give your work away

Soon after my dream took flight, I sought to give it away. I didn’t want the dream to depend on me. I found a faithful man in my local body whose family has been here for over 100 years and whose name was well-respected. I asked him if he would champion this ministry and worked alongside him to aid in the transition. We also recruited leaders from other churches.

Support without stealing the spotlight

Handing over the ministry meant handing over its direction. Sometimes we crave recognition for what we do. Try and turn that desire into action which recognizes and values the efforts of others. Pastors come and go, but I wanted to be a part of something that would outlast me. Remember the words of Jesus and do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.

What started as an idea—a dream—has grown six years later to include the cooperative efforts of 36 churches in my city to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We prayer-walk, share the gospel, pull weeds, paint, build, clean, and whatever we can to show the love of Christ together for the glory of God. We probably won’t make it into the Guinness Book of Records, but we are becoming a church for the community.

Pastor
Matt Beasley
Ridgecrest Baptist Church
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