God has uniquely gifted you and your congregation for community involvement.
By pastor Sam Butler.
We have established in previous articles that the motivation behind community engagement is love. Love flows from God to us through Jesus Christ and now through the presence of the Holy Spirit in us, love that flows from us out into our communities.
It sounds easy, but most of us feel a disconnect between the idea and how to do this in practical ways. For many of us, we can feel uncomfortable and secondguess our ability to be successful. Part of this is because we can fall into the trap of believing it all depends on us. The key is to live in the confidence of who we are in Christ and understand how he is leading us. We know that Jesus has all power and authority to lead and that he promises us he will be with us always (Matthew 28:18-20).
What this means is through the Spirit we are permanently connected to the love and leading of our Lord Jesus Christ. As the head of the church, Jesus takes the lead and invites us to participate with him. This gives us the confidence that we are never alone. Jesus is always with us, leading us out of a full expression of his love for the community. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21).
In sending us, Jesus equips us to participate with him. What does this equipping look like? It starts with our personal identity—who we are in Christ. Christ equips you through nurture, nature and spiritual gifts.
Think this through: What makes us who we are? Several things come to mind. Family genetics certainly plays a role. Then each of us has a unique personality. Add to this the entirety of our life’s experiences, and we see that each one of us is molded and shaped into a unique individual—and that is good. Each of us has something of value to offer.
This is a large part of Jesus’ equipping process and we need to trust it. He created you the way you are, he knows what he is doing, and he doesn’t make junk. Even the negative experiences in our lives can be used for the good of the gospel when we are led by the Spirit. But we aren’t done. The final piece includes the gifts God gives us through the Holy Spirit. All of this is given to us to share with others. All of this is useful in reaching out to our communities.
Another way of saying this is that in Christ we are indispensable. (Read Randy Bloom’s article in the May Equipper for a fuller explanation on understanding your and your congregation’s gifting). We need to see ourselves as Jesus sees us. We are created in the image of God, created for an eternal purpose. We are junior partners with Jesus, uniquely equipped to participate with him in the greatest work on earth. Be who God created you to be—don’t try to be someone you are not. When you work outside of your unique identity, you are not working to your fullest capacity and you are not enjoying the journey. Work out of your unique relationship with Christ, one that is energized by his love for you.
Motivated by the love of God in you and your personal equipping by Jesus, let’s look at a few ways that you can engage with your community with the gospel in mind.
- Continue to build relationships with people you already know. God has already placed people in your life—start there.
- Be intentional about building new relationships. Look for opportunities to share life with others. Be attentive to what others may be going through.
- Look for areas of need that you are equipped to help. You aren’t equipped to fill all needs, so pay attention to the areas that fit your giftedness.
- Invite other members to participate with you as you get involved. It’s always easier to serve in community.
- Make your church identity a part of who you are. You aren’t serving for you—you are serving and sharing and reaching out in relationship with Jesus, for the body of Christ.
- Look for ways to engage your church in what you are doing. Let the congregation’s light shine.
As we interact within our community it is important for us to remember that our priority is the gospel. Always keep this in the forefront; otherwise we can simply become a service organization doing good works.
Paul reminds us that love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8). God’s love is in us and his love ensures the victory. We need to be confident of who we are in Christ, confident in our participation, and confident that God’s love in us will motivate us and encourage us as we actively reach out to engage God’s dearly loved children in our communities.