Engaging your community
This article was written by Pastor Sam Butler.
Healthy churches desire to make an impact in the church community. The question raised is often, “How do we start?” I suggest our starting point, the framework from which we engage, is not a how question, but a who question. In other words, our framework should not begin with something we do but rather from who God is—so, we begin with the very nature of God, which is love. Father, Son and Spirit are love and everything thing they do flows out of that love. We can describe their relationship in terms of community to help us understand what community should mean to us. God is a community based on perfect love, perfect relationship and full participation.
How does God include us in that community? John 3:16 tells us that God loves us so much that he sent his Son to intervene on our behalf so that we would be able to experience eternal relationship with him. This love relationship gives us the privilege of full participation in what Jesus is doing. And what is Jesus doing? John 3:16 also informs us that God in Jesus is extending the opportunity of community to everyone, that everyone who believes in Jesus will enter his kingdom, a godly community of love, relationship and participation.
How does this impact how we live now in this present age? We understand from Scripture that in Jesus, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have the kingdom now but not yet in its fullness. In John 15:19 Jesus tells us that we live in this world, but we are not of this world. Our true community is in heaven and he has called us now to represent this Godly community in our present world, in the communities that we live in.
What does this look like for us? Last months’ lead article focused on gaining a better understanding of the “Great Commission”—moving from a position of apprehension into a deeper understanding of who Christ is and who he is for us. Christ has been given all authority and he tells us that he will be with us always. In him we share in his ongoing work, to bring all who will believe in Jesus into the godly community of love and relationship where we for eternity will have the privilege of participating in what God continues to do. No apprehension necessary.
Therefore, as we think about being involved in community for the sake of the Gospel, let us do so, not with apprehension, but with the deep understanding that we are participating with Christ in fulfilling God’s purpose of sharing his love. It is about love and relationship. God is calling all his creation into an eternal relationship of love. At the heart of who God is, at the heart of who we are, at the heart of what we do, is love. Everything begins and moves from here.
So rather than figuring out something to do to impact the community, it seems clear we should start with a love for the community—for each person in that community.
There are practical things we can do to engage community that can be discussed at another time, but before we focus on what, we need to see and experience our communities as Christ does, with the Father’s love. In John 17:23 Jesus tells us, “I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
As the Father loves the Son, so he loves us and all of his creation. This is the gospel. This is “Missio Dei.” Jesus is now sending us—sending us out into our communities to share his love. Through the indwelling of God himself, the Spirit, let us embrace our communities with a desire to build relationships and to share God’s love, as he is love and as he loves us.
God’s love is everything. Drink of it deeply and let it flow…….. Community.