What if God chose to remove your church from the face of His earth? Would your neighbors notice? Would your neighbors care?
Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount,
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)
An inherently public enterprise
One of the great blessings of being a child of God is the privilege of having a positive spiritual impact on another human being–or, from a corporate perspective, on an entire community. Imagine that! We not only have been translated from the kingdom of darkness (Col. 1: 13), but we now have the awesome opportunity to be a bright light to someone else. What an incredible calling!
A fair question every Christian and every church should ask is, “How well are we doing in this endeavor?” Do we really know our neighbors, and do they know us? How much evidence is there that we are fulfilling this responsibility?
Even those who do not yet believe in Christ should see us a community asset. “Our town is a better place because of their church” should be a constant refrain on the lips of those who live around us.
How to move beyond the truce
Some might read these words and wonder whether this is really possible in our present culture. In too many towns, an unhealthy (and ungodly?) truce has been established between churches and their communities –”Don’t bother us and we won’t bother you.” We have practiced separation on steroids. Too many churches are havens of indifference instead of havens of grace.
Jesus answered the “how” question; “Let your light so shine among men that they may see your good works and glorify our God who is heaven” (Matthew 5:16). So what does that look like in this culture?
Let’s ask our community.
Recently we asked a number of community leaders to answer the question of how a church could be a blessing in our town. In many cases, these are men and women we have worked with for years. These relationships have taken a long time to establish. We found many of their answers to be inviting and helpful. As you listen to their answers, ask yourself what the leaders in your community would say.
It starts in the heart.
Community based outreach is a mindset, a direction of the heart. Do you have the kind of heart that Jesus described? Do you want to have a positive spiritual impact on those the Lord has placed around you? Are you doing good works? What are some of the practical ways you have found to walk out these verses in your community?