One of the great challenges of pastoring is to move beyond pastoring my church and into pastoring my community. The longer I am in ministry, the more fed up I am with “programs” we try and design to keep the machine we call “church” going. If we were out truly pastoring our communities, things might look different.
On this matter, I have no “great results.” My church isn’t large, but the area of influence for our ministry is quite a bit larger than the numbers that show up on Sunday morning. The key is to be a vital part of the community in which we live.
Decades ago our churches went through horrible changes. We kept the building in the city while the congregation moved to the suburbs. We became commuter churches. We didn’t want to “get involved.”
When I first came to our present church I got involved in my neighborhood board. It was incredibly active and I was kept busy. One Saturday morning we were out picking up extra trash with a trash truck. As I was talking to the guy I was working with, I discovered he had gone to a nearby church that had been affiliated with my denomination. His wife was “very religious,” so he went along to support her.
I asked why he didn’t stay at that church. He didn’t stay because the pastor lived in a suburb and drove into church. The pastor didn’t get involved with community projects. When he preached on activism, it had to do with national political issues, not the local issues that were deeply important to the people sitting in the pews. The man didn’t stay at the church because the pastor didn’t engage the community. Christ wasn’t relevant to where they were. Christ was about some national political issue.
There is no way I have all the right answers. What I have determined over the years, however, was I needed to pastor my community. I have served on neighborhood boards, planning committees, development committees, school board projects, and more. I am personal friends with many of the city’s decision makers and they know I am their number one cheerleader. I love my city and I want it moving forward.
We need to be intentional about putting Christ in the middle of our community. Our ghettos are not only our denominations. Our ghettos can be our own churches. We go in, we stay for an hour or two, and we beat a path for home.
Missional isn’t about missions overseas alone. It is about bursting our Christian bubble and engaging the community in which we live.