Often when people talk about their church, they will tell you about the great praise band, the wonderful preaching, the excellent classes with great teachers, the superb programs for youth and kids, and the excellent child-care facilities. They mention these things because they are important to them, and they assume they will be important to you as well.
In your church, the specifics of ministry and the details of implementing these ideas will no doubt look altogether different from others. The goal isn’t necessarily to replicate what God is doing at other churches, but to help you see the central importance of ministry to others, so that your church can truly be all that God intends it to be. It’s of vital importance that we recognize our call of using our jobs and passions to serve God as we seek to understand the world, the disciple, and the society we live in.
Here are four ways that your church can greatly impact the community around you for the Gospel – glocal ministry through the local church.
At our church, we have conducted ongoing ESL (English as a Second Language) classes for the parents of schoolchildren for the past several years. The classes are held twice weekly. One of our members teaches one day and I teach the other.
In fact, the other member that teaches originally immigrated from Chile almost ten years ago. He accepted Christ at our church and has been involved in serving in Mexico and this local school ever since. Having gone through that difficult journey himself makes him an effective leader of others. He can use his skills, life experience, and passion to teach to link with God’s work right in his own community!
Most of the children at a school by us cannot afford their basic school supplies, nor can the school budget handle everything they need. Before our church was involved with the school, teachers would often dig into their own pockets to buy supplies. Our church decided to take over the supply problem, lifting the financial burden from the teachers. One of the school workers that was partnering with us in the process put it this way:
“We bag them up for Meet-the-Teacher Night when the parents come to the school’s open house. We put the students’ names on the bags, and the supplies are there at the students’ desks when the parents arrive. This way no one is made to feel poor—all children get a bag. Now they believe there’s nothing they can’t do or achieve.”
These people are working side by side with the kids and helping them achieve their goals. Every volunteer works with the child until they get it. Now all the kids think, ‘Somebody cares about me.’ Since the church started partnering with the school in this way, the impact on the school has been unprecedented.
After these ministries to the school were successfully underway, we asked what else was needed and without hesitation they replied: “A medical clinic.” Before I knew what was happening, the school had its own medical clinic. Normally, cutting through miles and miles of governmental red tape would have daunted our Christian volunteers. But as it happened, one of our volunteers had been in the business of buying and selling hospitals most of his career, so setting up a medical clinic was a piece of cake for him. Not only did he vanquish the red tape, but he also involved the community, the county hospital, and the school district in the project. He was able to successfully connect his skill and life experience with the work that God wanted to do through this medical clinic—engaging his particular domain (health care) as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
The medical clinic not only helps the disadvantaged children in the school; it also helps their families. These are people who have neither insurance nor the means to pay even for basic medical care. For a token fee of five dollars, they can get well-checked or treated for minor injuries and illnesses. No pastor could have been prouder of his church members than I was of these dedicated and caring Christians.
Several years ago, about seven hundred of our church members converged on four different homes of low-income families and totally restored them. The houses were chosen from the families of children who attend the Title I school. It was one of the most significant things our church members have ever done as a group, because it involved so many people. The families in the homes were so deeply touched that they could not stop talking about how beautiful their made-over homes now are.
THIS IS THE CHURCH
I share these because I believe that they demonstrate what any church can look like when its leaders shift their focus to making disciples instead of only focused on getting people who fill the pews. Our church members, involved in these ministries, are not merely converts to a belief system. They have not come to serve as a way of achieving personal salvation. They are disciples: followers of Christ, imitators of His life—dedicated to his call upon their lives.
The building where we meet for worship is not the church. The pastors, staff, and teachers are not the church. Our new worship center is not the church. The church is not simply a place where we gather for worship; it’s a network of interconnected disciples who serve in the community and in the world with the love of Jesus.
Our building is simply one division of the operational headquarters; our staff and pastors serve as motivators and enablers. But our church itself is really made up of the people who fan out from the building and link their jobs and skills with the work that God is doing all over the world. This is the church in action, engaged in kingdom ministry.
When the church engages society with no agenda, no strings attached, and no motivation other than love, it makes a huge difference, not only in the lives of the people they touch, but also in the hearts of those who witness their work.