For a while now, English Christian circles have loved the word ‘community’ as an expression of our engagement with the local area. The changing face of the urban landscape challenges our use of the word to a point that it appears to be losing its meaning. What is our ‘community’? Does the Church use it consistently?
It still has value but I do wonder if we need to engage again with using ‘neighbourhood’ as a better term. It has a tighter feel, more depth to its use and is probably a better expression for those engaged in reaching their location with the love of Christ.
I may start using ‘neighbourhood’ more and see if it makes a difference.
“Christians need other Christians who speak God’s Word to them. They need them again and again when they become uncertain and disheartened because, living by their own resources, they cannot help themselves without cheating themselves out of the truth. They need other Christians as bearers and proclaimers of the divine word of salvation”
“seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you…pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)
God loves the city but the way we act as Christians does not always demonstrate this. We have chosen a mission field that fits our comfortable lives rather than the mission field of God. God wants everyone in the city to know Himself but we can act with fear and trembling when it comes to certain ‘no-go’ areas. Our own well being is linked to the well being of ALL the people that live near us and around us….note that…ALL! This is real community and we need to see ‘all’ of the city as our mission field and that includes some people that we will find difficult, uncomfortable and not necessarily those that we would associate with.
In my current role, I speak with churches and groups who desire to make a difference. The first thing that I am asked is for the ‘winner takes all’ strategy, thankfully they do not quit when one is not offered. There are things that can be done;
Pray for your community
Blindingly obvious but often a step that is missed
Be in your community
In a mobile city this step can be ignored but it is often the poorer and more marginalised that are least mobile and forgotten. The organisation that I work for is seeking to adopt a strategy for key workers of ‘live, work and worship’ in the community. Not everyone can adopt this but it is worth considering
Know your community
Be the expert of your community; who lives where? what is available? where are the services? what is the history? Be the sage of the area….it matters!
Love your community
This can be done in many ways. Pick up litter as you pass, open your home to people, be available to people, talk with people, listen to people. Love the people and care for the environment, you will be surprised how people respond.
Seek the welfare of the city….go for it….be amazed at what God can do!
Have we lost our missionary vision? In the Evangelical world, it can sometimes feel that we have lost the same heart and passion for seeing ‘souls saved’ in order that we can see ‘communities transformed’. It is true that one can lead to the other but the reversal of priority order is problematic for the evangelical movement.
It is exciting to see the people fed, sanitation restored, lifestyles improved, the poor cared for and these things should be mightily applauded but if the cost is an eternity in hell rather than heaven, are we selling ourselves and our faith short? Are we becoming satisfied with 2nd best?
In Numbers 32, we see the Reubenites and the Gadites seeking land that was not a part of the promise. Yes, they helped the promised land to be taken but they settled in an area on the wrong side of the Jordan – they forsook the promise for 2nd best.
As evangelicals it is my contention that we get the order right in our mission – souls saved and communities transformed. The former must take priority and the consequences will benefit all of society, otherwise we may fail to take hold of all that God has promised….that would be a shame.
The online life is one that I regularly engage in and see a great value in. However, it must never demote real life meetings, interactions and conversations. It has a purpose but there are also some significant limitations.
Today I was invited to an online community system that offered to;
“helps the people of (name removed) build community, strengthen relationships, and much more.”
The dream is one that must be applauded in its aspiration and the lure of the online world is strong, yet these claims seem a little exaggerated. We need to be careful that we do not replace the meal table, the face-to-face, the gatherings etc. – real community is sharing life….in all it’s forms
The phrase “People are your best asset” is one that I have both used and heard relayed to me on numerous occasions over the years and one that raises different responses, usually dependant on the context, from me personally. As a result, I have decided to do a couple of posts to try and sharpen my own thinking.
More often than not, the phrase/expression is used to show value and is used in a context to demonstrate that people are important, people are valuable and that we must not forget the importance of people. However, I struggle with calling people an ‘asset’. Why?
People are not commodities to be used but individuals or communities that should be valued
It implies ownership of people and this has dreadful connotations
It is about the best for ‘me’….whereas, it should be about us
These three things alone convince me that it is a phrase that may not be the most suitable to use. Is there a better way to express the same thing? I think that there is and that it is one known to us all, particularly in a Christian context. What about, “love your neighbour as you love yourself“? I think this has a much better feel to it, what do you think?