Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Is your church needed in your community?

I recently had two interesting conversations with pastors of very different churches.  One is a small, struggling church in a rural area.  The church isn't the healthiest church according to a denominational leader who knows it well, and some would argue that it should be closed.  However, what this ministry leader told me is that this church is located in a very poor area in their state that has a high level of problems - economic, family, violence, crime, etc, and this is the only church in that area.  He said that this church, even with all its problems, offers the only message of hope in this community.

Only a couple of weeks after that conversation I was speaking with the pastor of a larger congregation who was telling me they are quickly running out of space in one of their worship services.  Their church is landlocked and cannot build at its present location.  As we were talking about possible options I mentioned they should consider starting a satellite church in a nearby community.  They already have people driving from that area due to the fact that there are no churches of his denomination in that community.  He not only agreed with me but had already been thinking of the same thing.  The only other option for that congregation would be for them to relocate their entire facility which would make no sense.  Besides, the pastor told me, their community needs their church.  While there are a number of other churches in the immediate area, none of them are reaching out into the community as my friend's church is doing, and none of them are growing.  That community needs this church in that area so the church will have to look at starting a second site if it wants to continue its growth.

Two very different churches.  One is growing while the other struggles to remain open.  One has a bivocational pastor, and the other church has three fully-funded ministers on staff.  What they have in common is that their communities need them because of the spiritual impact they make on those communities.

Does your community need you?  One writer once asked, "If your church closed tomorrow would anyone in your community know?"  If your church did not open next Sunday would your community be impacted at all?  How long would it be before some people even knew your church had ceased to exist?  What difference is your church having on your community?  By honestly answering these questions you will also answer the one that is the title of this post.

Several years ago I was scheduled to meet with a church committee.  This was before GPS so I got directions to the church from MapQuest.  I soon found out MapQuest did not know where this church was located.  I had seen a sign for the church from the highway so I knew I was in the right vicinity so I continued to drive up and down the country roads looking for the church or at least another sign.  I stopped at two homes to ask directions, and neither of them could tell me where the church was located.  I was late for the meeting and about to give up and return home when I found the church.  The incredible thing was that the church was within two miles of both homes where I had asked for directions.  This church had been in the same location for over 100 years, but people within two miles of it didn't know where it was located.  Could that happen if someone was trying to find your church building?

Our churches should be well known in the communities they serve as ministry centers where people can find hope and comfort, and most of all God.  People should smile when they say the name of our churches because of the ministries we provide.  People from all denominations, and people of no faith at all, should recognize our churches as people who are having a positive impact on their communities.  What specific things will your church do in your community between now and the end of this year that will serve the people of that community?  When you live your faith outside the four walls of your building your church will be needed in your community.

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