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.
“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!
“You don’t need to be from a place of disadvantage in order to serve the disadvantaged” Kenny Borthwick
“The poor and disadvantaged know things about the kingdom that we need to learn” Kenny Borthwick
“Decline in the church seems to start in the family” David Voas
“Parish geography needs further thought as more communities are gathered than geographical” David Voas
“Sometimes we need to break concrete before we can sow seeds within the soil” Mark Russell
“The challenge for evangelists is to be results expectant and not result dependant” Mark Russell
As I am preparing for a seminar on reaching young people, I am re-reading the Pimlott book (Youthwork after Christendom) and have been stopped in my tracks by one page. It articulates many of my own frustrations and has made me quite emotional – want to shout it from the rooftops! Can’t do that but I can write a blogpost.
“Our missiology tends to be determined by our ecclesiology, which then influences our Christology. This means that the way in which churches and youthworkers undertake mission is often shaped by the buildings they have. This approach gives a perspective and view of Jesus that tends to be building centred rather than lifestyle focussed. This is a big mistake…….”
We need space for our work, we need an arena for doing our work but the space required is determined first by our purpose. A street corner may be adequate, a skate park or an old shipping container, we do not always need property, although on occasions it may be so, but we do need space…..what that space looks like does not always equate to bricks and mortar.
Basic thoughts but important thoughts too!