Whether you are an individual, part of a church, worship team, business, or other organization, you may have the desire to get out into the community. There are many motivations for doing so, but this article will focus on the churches and non-profits that want to get into the community with the end goal of having an opportunity to share the Gospel of Christ. We cannot sit back and wait for an increasingly unchurched nation to just walk through our doors. We must meet them where they are just as Jesus did.
Jesus as an Example
When we read through the New Testament we do not see a Messiah that goes to the synagogue and waits on others to come to him. We find Jesus traveling to those who are hurting. One of those hurting was the disabled man in John chapter 5 who was waiting on a miracle by the pool of Bethesda. Jesus sought him out. He knew that man could not come to him. There are those in our community who need you to come to them.
Another person we find Jesus traveling to is the woman in Samaria found in John chapter 4. The Jews would purposely avoid the area, even if it meant adding additional miles to a trip. Jesus went there deliberately, despite the horrible things that people said about Samaria and the people that lived there. The woman would not have been allowed in a place of worship because of her lifestyle, but she didn’t have to, because Jesus sought her out. We must purposely seek out those in our community, especially those who do not feel welcomed by the church.
Jesus set an example for us, and he also gave us commands to live by as His followers. Before departing earth, Jesus gave us the Great Commission found in Matthew 28. In this chapter he tells us to “go and make disciples of all nations.” We must go to those in the local community, to those in our country, and to those in the farthest places in the world.
In Matthew chapter 25, Jesus also gave us the parable of the sheep and the goats. The parable is about feeding those who are thirsty, feeding those who are hungry, visiting those who are in prison, and clothing those who are naked. When we do these things, even for the least of those in our community, we do it for Jesus. Those who bypass those listed above in our community are separated from Jesus at final judgement as goats. We must be his hands and feet. We must be willing to do the work of the Kingdom, and that means getting outside of our church walls. Visit those in prison or nursing homes. They cannot come to you. Bring church to them. You will find yourself growing in many ways as you sacrifice your time and give of your talents.
Trends in our Culture
More and more people in our society are looking for ways to be a part of a community. We can see this through the successes of organizations such as CrossFit; Team Red, White, and Blue; and Meet Up. These organizations have tapped into a deep longing in our culture to be a part of something bigger than themselves. These organizations offer team work, motivation, and the opportunity to socialize with like-minded people. We too can offer the community various events and activities to be a part of; and at the end of the day, we can also offer them the hope of salvation and relationship with Jesus.
Lessons Learned from Successful Organizations
Team Red, White, and Blue’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. Today’s veterans want to give back to the community and be involved in more active events such as running in races, hiking, paddle boarding, or biking. If you have ran a race recently, you have probably seen large groups of people wearing bright red shirts with a white eagle on the front, proudly representing this organization. You will find chapters all over the nation. The reason why they are so successful is that they have given military and veterans an outlet to come together in a positive way. I believe the church can do something similar. Those that are active in the church can sponsor active events such as this. And with the help of social media, word can spread quickly. We can not only bring together the big Church as a whole and get outside our walls, but we can also include members of the community. Bike rides, and hikes can turn into spiritual journeys when the focus is Jesus.
CrossFit is an organization whose mission is based on workouts driven by functional movements performed at high intensity. This organization started out with just a few people that wanted to change the way people lived their lives, not just how they work out and has grown to tens of thousands worldwide. What is unique about CrossFit is that it is not just a workout, but it is a community. People encourage each other during the workouts, with the last person usually being encouraged the most. There is also friendly competition that makes you strive to be the best you can. There are some CrossFit chapters that already offer Bible study groups. We can also use this type of model to get into the community. Offer up some yoga, or Pilates classes followed by a Bible Study. Celebrate with others as they achieve spiritual and physical milestones! My previous church had the entire staff doing workouts together and it helped to solidify teamwork, while helping everyone get into better shape along the way.
Meetup is a social media portal that facilitates offline group meetings. The goal is to enable members to find groups united by a common interest. There are various categories of interests, whether you like board games, hiking, or even learning about leadership, there is a meet up group for you. I have seen a church use this platform to get into the community. They offered the John C. Maxwell leadership series and posted it on Meet Up. Many people from the community came out and they were immediately embraced by the church community. How can you use this platform to bring people together?
Best Practices within the Church Body
The following organizations have tapped into their own unique passions and have a heart for getting into the community. Use their ideas to help those around you get involved and watch your organization or church grow.
Armed to Worship is an organization whose mission is to organize, train, and equip a lifestyle of worship. We have led worship in nursing homes, hosted worship as one events which brought multiple church communities together for worship, and built youth worship teams. We have also hosted community dinner & game nights and our latest venture is Guitar and Coffee Night. The music being taught is always worship music and it is open to the public. Those who come out can learn to play guitar, sing, or just hang out in community with others. It is a great opportunity for networking and getting to know the Church members in your area that may not go to your church. It is a great opportunity for those in the community to be immediately exposed to worship and what it truly means to live a lifestyle of worship. Many people have that old guitar in the corner they have been meaning to play. What a great opportunity to learn with others and connect with church members. This is also a great discipleship opportunity as the organization stresses a one-up, one-down philosophy. What makes this a unique opportunity for many churches is that worship teams sometimes do not have the time to train others to be on their worship teams. This is a great way for beginners to learn and grow musically and spiritually.
Additionally, it is great to travel to worship conferences in Australia or in California, but if you do not have the spare money laying around or the time to do so, this organization takes the worship training to the people. Guitar and Coffee Night offers not only lessons to play guitar, but also foundational worship training on a more personal level. Once you have someone that can play through some songs, invite them to go play music at a local nursing home or even at a prison. Take the worship music to the places that people are unable to go to a church. They will appreciate it and it will grow you as a worship leader.
Another example of how you can get into the community is through business. Our church is in the beginning of building a daycare with a mission of exposing young children to Christ. They noticed a need for quality daycares in the area, and they wanted to bring Christ to the area while providing a much needed service. They also hope to offer parenting classes, support for marriages, and the opportunity to invite young couples to church. We too can offer up businesses that will not only help support the expansion of the Kingdom, but can offer a little more to the community. There is also a non-profit in our area called BellHOP café. They own a coffee house and host a church on Sunday morning, and community events throughout the week. The owner is passionate about Christ and makes it a point to let visitors know his mission: To create a God space where people can experience the unconditional love that is available through a relationship with Christ, without the pressure of religion.
The final example is Surfing the Nations in Hawaii. This organization is global in mission, using surfing to reach the world for through humanitarian work, but it is their local charity and community building efforts that is so incredible. Downtown Wahiawa on Oahu was known as the most dangerous area of Hawaii with crime rates through the roof and the downtown area being the center of it all. It hosted bars, strip clubs, and pawn shops all in one stretch of road. Surfing the Nations was able to secure one of those store fronts when the store could no longer support rent. The first thing that they did was put the first coat of paint on with their hands. Dipping them in, they would pray over the wall and then do it again. They bathed the place in prayer. Store front after store front was secured and soon, they were able to own all of the store fronts on that stretch of road to include the brothel behind the buildings. Today you will find Surfers Coffee Bar, a sandwich shop, lemonade store, a vintage clothing shop, and a church that meets every week in what used to be the strip club. God has used this ministry to support the homeless each week by opening up the coffee bar on Wed nights for a free meal and a place to hand out supplies. God has used the church to spark a revival in worship and healing. And finally, God has used this entire ministry as a shining example of what can happen when you want to change a community by being right there in the midst of it, using your gifts and talents that God has given to you.
Whether you are an active person that loves to run or bike; if you are business minded; or if you like painting or cooking; take that passion and bring it to the community. If your first love is Jesus, you will have a positive impact on the Church and your community. We must follow our savior’s example and bring his message to those that cannot or would not come to your church. You may find that those within your church will love the opportunity to volunteer, share their faith, and get involved in a mission bigger than themselves.
If starting a business or ministry sounds like more than you can handle right now, then look up some local ministries who are already plugged in. You can also try these ideas:
· Help the elderly with household maintenance
· Host summer programs to help the poor with their children while school is out
· Organize a cooking class or painting class for moms
· Host a BBQ for first responders or veterans
· Host a game night for college or high school kids
· Organize a day or weekend mission trip in your own hometown. There are many needs within your community we raise money to go on mission trips around the world, yet we live in an increasingly unchurched nation. Turn your passions and prayers loose on your own community. Love on those around you and they will want to know why. What a great opportunity to share your faith and the Gospel message!
For more information on the organizations listed above please go to the following links:
Kimber Nettis is currently an active-duty Major in the U.S. Air Force. She graduated from Baylor University with a BA in Communications and recieved an MA in Christian Ministry from Liberty University. She and her husband Michael founded Armed to Worship Ministries, a non-profit that serves to organize, train, and equip a lifestyle of worship.