Ask not what the world can do for the Church, but what the Church can do for the world…
The world wasn’t created to serve your church.
I think you would probably agree with this if you are a Christian. If you aren’t a Christian, you have probably been saying this for a while.
But the question isn’t whether or not you agree on paper. Do you agree in reality? Do your actions reflect an agreement with the statement above?
When discussing politics, do you pit “the world” against “the church”? When discussing the news or media, do you see it as an “us vs. them” dichotomy?
If you do, you aren’t alone. You are probably someone who is wrestling with the frustrations of realizing the world you live in isn’t the way it used to be. You may find some things harder to accomplish today than they used to be.
Change is hard.
Here is why it should matter to you:
…the world is watching.
…people are turning away from Christianity because of the complaining.
…people are tired of hearing about Christians complaining about something else.
…people want to see a Christianity that cares more about others than it cares about preserving its past.
Regardless of your political persuasion, the people you know are likely far more concerned with how you love them and others than they are with your political arguments.
So what should you do about it all? How can you get your church unstuck and serve the community? Good question.
5 Painfully Simple Ways to Get Your Church Unstuck and Serve the Community
1. Pray For Your Community
What if your church consistently prayed for your community? Now I’m not talking about exclusively praying for spiritual needs. But do you pray for the felt needs that people are battling? Do you know what those needs are? Does the pain and suffering in your world break your church’s collective heart?
(Note: I believe we need to always pray for spiritual needs. My point isn’t that you should stop sharing the Gospel or stop talking about what you believe. But I do think there are quite a few people in your community that will care far more about what you believe when they see and feel that you really care about them.)
2. Listen to Your Community
The leaders of your community will happily tell you some of your city’s needs. They probably know as much if not more about the needs of the community than you or your church does.
Who are the leaders you know? Who do you need to get to know?
What about individuals not in leadership? What about your neighbors, colleagues, and others you run into during the course of normal, every day life? When is the last time you stopped to listen to them?
But even beyond the scope of listening for needs, what if we listened simply because we cared? I think your church would experience such a internal heart change that the actions would follow.
It makes me cringe when I hear Christian leader after Christian leader on TV or radio nearly fighting to get their point across. What if you took a chance on loving the people around you in such a way that you might not get in your 2 cents?
Your friends and family have stories. They want to share them. Everyone does. Create opportunities to let others share with you and with your church. Don’t start by trying to fix them or tell them your ideas.
Start by caring enough to listen.
3. Serve Your Community
You will usually serve your community better if you first pray for people and listen to them. Otherwise, you won’t know them or their needs well enough.
It is equally dangerous to spend all your time talking about serving and not enough time serving. Find tangible ways to get your church unstuck and serve the community by investing deeply in your community. Make sure at least a few (if not most) events occur physically in the community and not in your church building.
You can’t do it all. It should go without saying that anything you do would align with church’s direction and gifting; however, you also want to ensure that you serve your community’s unique needs, hurts, or challenges.
What are some of the challenges your local schools are facing?
Are there prevalent addictions that are growing in your city?
What would a local non-profit do on a service day to serve the city?
In what ways are businesses serving your community that you could learn from?
The last question may not be very popular in your church and I get that. Your church isn’t a non-profit that serves and serves with no greater goal. You shouldn’t hide from your faith. You also need to communicate the Gospel message at some point with words if you hope to see people come to faith.
But try comparing these two questions…
When is the last time someone in your community complained about your church serving too much?
When is the last time you heard a person express frustration over Christians complaining, judging, arguing, etc?
What if your church served so much that your local community groups, city leaders, and others asked if they could help you?
You don’t have to get involved in politics to do this.
You have to be human.
You have to care about others more than yourself.
You need to think more about what your church can do for the community than what the community can do for your church.
You have to allow the Gospel to impact your actions as much as it impacts your words.
4. Apologize to Your Community
You may not like the sound of this one. You may think we are admitting defeat…but who said our job was to fight a cultural war as Christians?
As Christians our battle is spiritual, and it has already been won. We serve because Jesus won a battle that wasn’t ours to fight (and we couldn’t ever win it ourselves).
How have Christians hurt your community? When you talk to non-Christians, what are the things that they share as past or present wrongs committed by the church?
You don’t necessarily need to spend all your time apologizing for the past. But admitting, acknowledging, and apologizing needs to be a more consistent part of Christian discussions.
We aren’t perfect, but we serve One who was and is.
5. Collaborate with Your Community
As you serve your community, don’t do it alone. There are incredible people in your community that love people. People who want opportunities to serve others. People who would love to collaborate with your church.
Your church shouldn’t isolate itself from others in the community just because they don’t believe exactly what you do. There are many ways you can collaborate with others who care about humanity. If you can’t, you may want to ask what Scripture teaches about God’s view of humans (i.e. imago dei).
You may have heard the argument that we can’t collaborate with this church or this organization or this entity because they aren’t theologically aligned with us. I believe you can find ways to serve the community alongside of most people without focusing on their beliefs first.
You shouldn’t not compromise your beliefs, start new churches, or launch seminaries with people that don’t align with your core theological beliefs. Doing so will create confusion, conflict, and compromise. Those things should require theological alignment.
But there are many things that don’t require agreement on everything. Serving your community with those who disagree with you or who may not even be Christian, may end up opening doors to new relationships and new opportunities for sharing.
Let’s be a church that serves even when it gets messy.
Let’s be a church that serves the community because it is the right thing to do.
Let’s stay attuned to the opportunities we have to share our faith, but remain patient and loving enough to be the church before we insist on talking about it.
Let’s never stop communicating the Gospel with both words AND actions.
Let’s be the Church on mission.
Let’s ask not what the world can do for the church, but what the church can do for the world.