holistic community engagement
The following is a post I wrote for The Greenhouse Effect, a church-planting blog run by Churches of Christ in NSW. It’s fairly general compared to my regular posts, but hopefully you get something meaningful out of it.
Many church planters begin with a desire to ‘grow’ a church. Such church’s community engagement becomes necessarily characterised by a need to convince people to attend a program. Not only do people in a community tend to see through such shallow motives and relationships, but also this is not how God calls the Church to engage culture.
In the biblical narrative God always called people ‘out’ in order for them to represent an alternative reality which will eventually bring redemption to the dominant reality – this was Israel’s role, this was Jesus’ model, and this is the Church’s function.
So what kind of ‘redemption’ do our communities need? It is not enough to simply say they need to be evangelised (as true as that might be). Redemption is about freedom from slavery, and no doubt our communities often need this in all spheres of existence.
Our communities need redemption from depression and loneliness – meaningful relationships and a sense of belonging for all people.
Our communities need redemption from unjust class and wealth disparity – social justice for the poor and marginalised in the face of unjust systems keeping them in bondage.
Our communities need redemption from ecological issues – the degradation of the natural world not only leads inevitably to economic problems, but also to the demoralisation of culture as beauty is tainted.
Our communities need redemption from lifeless culture – particularly in poor communities a vibrant cultural life can be almost non-existent leading to mass demoralisation and anti-social and harmful behaviour. Humans need creativity (music, art, architecture etc.) to not only find beauty and meaning in life, but also to emulate God’s creativity as his image.
Of course the list could go on. The point here is that communities have wide needs and churches must engage their community in a holistic way that meets the fullness of these needs.
This is not simply a good idea, or worse, a good evangelistic strategy. Rather, this is the level of redemptive activity that God has called us to as modelled in the words and deeds of Jesus who addressed not merely religious concerns, but also concerns related to relationships, politics, economics, culture and justice.
How deep are we willing to go with our communities?
Posted on January 31, 2011, in Culture & Art, Mission, Theology and tagged Belonging, Community, Community Engagement, Culture & Art, Ecology, Holism, Justice, Redemption. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.