Thursday, December 22, 2005

Paradigm Shift #2

A continutation of notes to myself as I study a great resource: 10 Paradigm Shifts Toward Community Transformation

2) From Measuring Attendance to Measuring Impact

Size only tells you how many people are attending events or count themselves as part of an organization. The church, however, was never intended to be a club, but instead a tantalizing taste of the kingdom of God right here on earth. The kingdom of God does not fit into a box, or a building, or a sub-culture--instead it is the eternal, cross-cultural, multi-generational purpose of God.

Every Christian pays lip service to the fact that the church is not a building, it is the people of God--a sent people. If indeed we are sent, why have we not yet gone? We are to be a bright and salty witness to a dark and tasteless world. Jesus' life as recorded in the gospels indicate that he was deeply involved with sinners and outcasts, the forgotten, the infectious, the poor, the oppressed. He confronted the complacent religious people with a life changing message of the Kingdom of God. Some of them heard, and some of them found it quite uncouth.

In the last three years our church has grown from five to ten (when my family of five joined) and now is up to about fifty. That is a sign of health and growth. However, if we fifty are not directly impacting our neighborhoods, workplaces, college campuses, and city then what are we accomplishing? Potential areas of need are endless: public schools, homeless shelters, city politics, recent immigrants, shut-in elderly, crack-addicted prostitutes, foster children forgotten in the system, adolescent boys facing the lure of gangs and the drug trade, pre-teen girls who value their sexuality above their self-worth, the hopeless, the infinitum. This can be overwhelming, but I think that is because we are focused on our own sufficiency and not God's calling. God's calling encompasses not just my little church, but all of God's people in this area. There are specific ways our fifty are being called to invest; now the task is to discern that specific call.

It is the same with collegiate ministry. That challenge there is not the passion needed to make a difference, but the follow-through. My students are extremely serious academically and busy with many different interests and pay lip service to being salt and light to the poor (it's hip) but how much time do they spend doing anything about it beyond a short-term missions trip or an occasional community service opportunity?

And what about me? I make phone calls and send emails when prompted by the ONE campaign or Sojourners. I treat homeless people and prostitutes with respect when we cross paths and shake their hands and look them in the eyes. I teach my children to pray for the poor and displaced (we had plenty of opportunities in the recent hurricane season.) I have in the past volunteered occasionally with a soup kitchen and later welcomed some of the guests into my church and maybe even once into my home for a meal. Am I fulfilling my call? I tell myself that part of my call is to impart a socially conscious faith into my children and my students, and that is my community impact. But am I missing something? I honestly don't know.

There are those among my conservative brothers and sisters who wonder if all this "social justice" matters. Evangelism...that's what it's all about! I am all for evangelism, but isn't the kingdom of God even bigger than getting souls into heaven? And who says that the only way to preach the gospel is with a quick recap of Jesus' life leading to the sinners' prayer? Again, I can point to one time in my life as a teenager when I prayed the sinner's prayer and gave my life to Jesus. But as I look back I realize that it was the community of faith I had around me that really brought me into faith, carried me up to the point that I was ready to give my life to Jesus.

"Perhaps, in this century, the greatest apologetic for the reality of Jesus Christ living in a community will be observational more than propositional. To have a faith that can be observed is to be living out the truths we want others to grasp and the life of the Savior we want them to know." --Eric Swanson

Micah Girl


Blogger Preacher Mom said...

Dropping in for what I believe is the first time. I like what you are doing here. Thanks for the wonderful reference. I have downloaded it and look forward to reading/studying it.

8:47 PM  

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