Community is a term that is often used to describe a group of people that are together, whether it is because of geographical reasons, a common cause, or similar interests. As human beings we naturally fall into specific communities (i.e. where we live, school, work). However, there are times we seek to be a part of communities as well (i.e. clubs, workout groups at the gym, church groups). Community allows people to feel a sense of identity, belonging, and importance. Therefore, it is vital as a Christian body that we are not only involved in the community, but a part of our community.
Being “in” our community and being a “part” of our community may sound like synonymous phrases, but as I have continued to learn and research about connecting churches with their community, I have found that there is quite a difference between the two phrases. At an Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) workshop, led by James Moynihan (http://weareonechurch.com/) , it was explained that there is a paradigm shift that has to happen to go from being a church that is strictly “in” their community doing to/for ministry to a church that is a “part” of their community doing ministries with the people in it.
In simpler terms, as Christians of a church body we are usually the first to assist in a time of need or relief for the community. We also may put on monthly, holiday, and/or yearly events to outreach to our local community. However, the paradigm shift of the church being a part of the community suggest that we (the church) should be working with the people of the community, as a team, to meet the communities needs and to hold events that have the input of the community as a whole.
This shift does not suggest that there is not a time or need for the church to step up to provide full relief. Because, we all know that God commands us several times in the Bible to help and assist those in need. But, this new perspective helps us identify the purpose of being placed in our specific community. A church can be part of its community by engaging, empowering, and working with the people of the community. This allows us to be actively in our community, planting seeds that advance the Kingdom of Christ.
After all, we can all agree as Christians, that this is what we are called to do. The Great Commission tells us, “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). So, I ask today, where do we feel we are as a church? Are we simply “in” a community? Or, are we a “part” of our community? Are we, as a church body, advancing the Kingdom of Christ in our communities?