“A Church in the Community for the Community.”
That was the slogan of a church where I served as pastor. We wanted the community to be able to identify with us. The desire was not to just be a fixture or monument in the area or seen as a building without any significant impact or importance. Our church wanted to be a pioneer, one that innovates, explorers, and attempts to set trends that can be viewed as instrumental within the community. In being a pioneer, you set the path by which people and systems follow.
Now, more than ever, the church has an opportunity to live out this example of rethinking its strategy for pioneering community evangelism. There will be more opportunities for the church to reach the community, as opposed to expecting the people in community to come to church.
I suggest beginning with relationships through meaningful connection. The question is: how?
Although we are designed to live in community with one another, there will still be an initial hesitancy for people to feel comfortable in gathering in public places, attend football stadiums, arenas, or malls; and yes, even the church.
So, until individuals’ feelings of hesitation has subsided, there is an opportunity for the church to continue strategizing around intentional relationship building in their community. Social distancing may remain for a little while, but there is a huge opportunity for intentional spiritual connection that will last.
Here are some strategies to consider for your church to intentionally build lasting community connection post-COVID-19.
- Connect through sending personal note cards from the church, letting your neighbors know you are thinking about them and praying for them. This can be done by using Google maps or the USPS every door direct.
- Connect through a free conference call line for a community prayer call. Individuals can come together and pray for their community and their country.
- Host and develop a community share group or life group by leveraging and making various social platforms available for prayer requests, community needs, and resources.
- Be intentional about being a trusted resource, not just for your members but for others in the community.
- Serve your community at-large by partnering with your local government agencies and nonprofits to be a distribution site for meeting needs.
It is important for the church to think through strategies post-COVID-19 that will demonstrate our commitment to love our community and our neighbors.
Jesus reminds us with these words;
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” ~ John 13:34-35 NKJV
The demonstration of the Christians’ love and support for one another enables us to survive in a hostile world. As Jesus was the embodiment of God’s love, so now each disciple should embody Christ’s love. This love is a sign to the world as well as to every believer.
We are living in a time where the church can return to being the lighthouse in the community through reaching the needs of the people. It’s going beyond being a church in the community but being the church of the community. We can be a clear expression of the visible church by caring for peoples’ spiritual, physical, emotional, and social needs, thereby building trust to share the explicit gospel.
In ministering in these ways, we are not “making the world a better place” for its own sake. Rather, genuinely caring for our community provides a rich context in which to share the gospel and call them to faith in Christ.
Let us find opportunities and ways that our churches can help bring healing, encouragement, and hope to our community post-COVID-19. By this they will know that we are the church in the community for the community, and ultimately believe our message of Christ’s own sacrifice for their eternity.
Richard Bumpers serves as Evangelism catalyst for the West Central Region of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.