Imagine that you have a mutual friend that is considering a new business venture. According to him, the new company will not maintain an online presence, will not provide their surrounding community with goods or services that are practical to their needs, their customers will be met with an abrasive and ambivalent attitude, and they will not send out any sales people to tell potential customers about their products. What would you say to him?
In all likelihood, if you’re a good friend, you would tell him, “Your business is not going to succeed.”
What is interesting about this example is the fact that while we know that this isn’t a feasible method for running a for-profit business, this is a commonly accepted means of operating a church. Many churches are perfectly content to not have an online presence, not maintain a working relationship with their surrounding community, welcome guests with an abrasive ambivalence, and not send people out to tell others of the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Just as any good business needs to know the needs of their community to provide goods or services to meet those needs, churches need to know what the community needs in the context of where God has placed them.
Pastor/Church Leader, in our journey to discover the particular calling of your church and improve its long-term health, here are four basic needs of the community that surround your organization.
- They need a church that looks like them.
Cultural/Demographical/Socio-economic changes are not uncommon in communities. This is part of the ever changing dynamics of society. But many churches become a stronghold of days gone by when the community around the organization evolves. If the community is 52% White/Caucasian, 48% Black/African-American, and 4% Hispanic/Latino, then your church’s body should look similar to that. If it doesn’t, then it is only a period of time before you shut your doors.
- They need a church that meets them and loves them where they are.
Those that do not have a relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, will not act like Christ-followers because they are not Christ-followers. Therefore, stop expecting them to be something they are not. Your community needs you to meet them and love them where they are. I sometimes think that we’ve forgotten that, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He loved us, while we were yet sinners. It is possible to love people (not their sin or lifestyle) before they have entered into a relationship with Christ. The love of Christ is first shown through us then shared by us. Show your community you love them, and they’ll be more apt to believe that Christ loves them because they have seen that love modeled through you.
- They need a church that builds relationships and provides resources
Churches are notorious for providing resources for positive initiatives within their community but forgetting to build relationships. Outside organizations have come to recognize this reality and have used it to their advantage. Ask yourself this question, “Of the outside ministries that our church focuses on, how many of them encourage one-to-one contact with the individuals that we are helping?” Based on my own experience, only 5 to 10 percent of the regular attendees interact with those to whom the churches send resources and a significant amount of the time they are just dropping the resources and leaving. An effective church must seek out means to build relationships through the provision of resources.
- They need a church that is persistent in their calling.
Communities, like children, need stability. We are far removed from the era where “Drive-by Jesusing” worked. It is neither acceptable nor practical to have fly-by-night ministries that swoop in and out of the community like a confused bird. The random block party, passing out of water bottles with the gospel on them, and the back-to-school community barbecue is not as effective in our age of skepticism. Many of those individuals have caught on to the gig, and they know what you’re up to. Instead, we must begin investing intentionally over an extended period of time and show them that we actually care. Find a legitimate need in the community surrounding your church and start investing through both resources and relationships to help meet that need. You can’t get crock-pot results from a microwave, a lasting impact takes time.
When people see the genuine love that you have for them they will ask the question, “Why are you doing this?” Then you’ll be able to share the love of Christ (The Gospel) that you’ve already shown them through gospel-motivated service.
This post is a part of a series of posts that are written to help Pastors/Church Leaders improve the long-term health of those places where God has placed them. The previous posts are as listed below. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read, and I hope that you’ve been encouraged and equipped with practical resources to help you lead well in your ministry context.
- I’m a Pastor! Now What?
- The Outside of the Puzzle Box
- The Work of the Ministry: 3 Questions to Discover God’s Purpose for Your Church