For centuries, healthy churches have played a critical role in communities by providing spiritual guidance, support, and a sense of belonging. The challenge that we all face is to understand the full scope of influence we have on the people around us. Collectively, as a church, we impact the community in either a positive or negative way. The question that every congregation must ask itself is, “As a church, how are we impacting our community?”
I suppose that most people would agree that, as followers of Jesus, we are called to bring glory to God and help others come to know Christ. This is the “missional mindset” to which Paul alludes in 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1 – “31So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. 1Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ”(ESV). Very simply put, Paul says, “Give glory to God in all things. Avoid being offensive to others and to God. Seek the advantage of others rather than your own. Why? So that they may be saved.” This missional mindset ought to be part of who we are as the people of God.
But not only do healthy churches provide spiritual guidance, support, and a sense of belonging to the community in which they reside, they also offer valuable opportunities for their members to reach out to others. Those opportunities may include community service and outreach programs, small group activities, mission trips, or local evangelism efforts. Many churches organize programs to help feed the hungry, provide shelter for the homeless, and care for the sick. Bible studies, prayer groups, support groups for people struggling with cancer, addiction, or mental health issues are a great way to impact the local community in a positive way. Some churches offer classes and training on how to share one’s faith with others and invite them along on our journey of faith and spiritual growth. There are countless possibilities for engaging the broader membership in reaching out to others.
However, it is important that we acknowledge the reality – it is easy for us as individuals to become comfortable, complacent even, with the status quo. As leaders within the church, it is easy and tempting for us to be so satisfied with the current ministries of the church that we fail to seek out new opportunities to engage others. As individuals, we get so involved in our various friend groups at church that we begin to focus inwardly. We feel quite comfortable in our holy huddle, and if we are not careful, we may miss those opportunities that we have to connect with those outside of our circle. We contribute financially and may feel like we are doing enough. But healthy churches, healthy leaderships, challenge and motivate members to understand the importance of participating in the mission to which we are all called.
Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision International and Samaritan’s Purse, once said, “My single greatest concern is the growing inertia I see, inertia born out of our luxury and materialism. People are fooling themselves when they say the job is done…The vast body of people in the world today have never been given enough information to know if they accept or reject Jesus…Most people think what the gospel needs is more clever, skilled people, when what it needs is more people who are willing to bleed, suffer, and die in a passion to see people come to Christ.” Healthy churches, healthy leaderships, remind their members of the urgency of reaching out to those outside of Christ. But they don’t stop there. They provide meaningful opportunities for their members to reach out to others. This is accomplished not merely through words, but through actions, modeling a deep desire to serve others and a passion to see the lost brought to salvation in Jesus.
As a church, we cannot lose sight of the ministry to which all Christ-followers are called. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Letters and Papers from Prison, wrote, “The Church is the Church only when it exists for others...not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.” In Scripture, we see that the Church is public; the Church is active; and the Church is missional. Because of that reality, with respect to engaging in the ministries of the local congregation and in seeking to reach out to others, I would say to all church leaders that we need to encourage all members to be present and do something for someone else. We must all take responsibility for ourselves, making sure we are living in such a way that glorifies and honors God and benefits the whole congregation and the community around us.
Healthy churches, healthy leaderships, provide a supportive and encouraging environment for members to make a positive impact on the world around them. By getting involved in the various ministries and outreach opportunities provided by the church, members can develop a deeper sense of connection and purpose, as well as continued growth in their spiritual journey as they seek to serve others. My prayer is that we will all understand the importance of reaching out to others.