No one will argue that our world is getting rough. There is a story every day of another shooting in our nation, another war on the brink of starting or other natural disaster or tragedy. This doesn’t count the daily struggles people face with finances, over-commitment and relational issues.
I recently heard someone mention the scripture Isaiah 60:1 and it has stuck with me for several weeks.
1 Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Jesus is the light of the world. As His instrument to work in the world, the church should be a bright spot. Would you consider your church to be a bright spot in the community?
Here are seven ways your church can shine in the community:
1. Stay Where You Are
Churches may be tempted to move out, away from the tough areas, but you may be the only light there is. Stay where you are. When the demographics change. When the value of land shifts. When the community is changing. Stay and be a light. Here are some thoughts on ways any church can help reach into the cities. Every church is called to love and serve the people around them. This may require changing, it may require new ways of doing things and it’s going to require lots of prayer and vision! But seek to serve where you are – be a light right here right now.
2. Stay Visible
Keep your presence known in the community. Connect the dots for people. Church plants do this naturally, because it’s all they have – their people, their name and their mission. When a congregation is in a building, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking people will know where we are and what we do. Buildings are a great asset to ministry – so keep your building up and going. Curb appeal is important. Keep things fresh by changing the banners, signs and publicity. This doesn’t have to cost lots of money, but you need a plan in place. But don’t count on the building alone – the people need to be visible. Try this experiment: Take notice of all the business buildings you don’t even pay any attention to on your drive to your own church. Were there any you have never been in, never noticed, never even thought about pulling into? That’s the way a whole slew of people feel about your church building. Stay visible in the community through media, activity, service and word of mouth.
3. Streamline Ministry Springboards In Your Church
The decision should be simple when people want to begin ministries on their own in the community. Turn people lose. Don’t make it difficult to start outreaches and other ministries that will be a light in the name of Jesus. If you rely on paid leaders or a small group of leaders to do all ministry in the community, it will be difficult to fully accomplish your mission of sharing Christ’s love. Encourage ideas and build a simple framework for people to jump in, be held accountable, but most importantly, begin.
4. Model Generosity and Hospitality as a Church
The church ought to be the first place where generosity and hospitality are offered in abundance. Even as I wrote this bullet point, I changed it from “Model Generosity and Hospitality in your Church” to “Model Generosity and Hospitality as a Church”. For sure, go over the top to help people feel at home when they walk through your doors. [read sign are important, but people are better]. But don’t stop there – how can you be generous and hospitable to the community? Give to the community. Give time and hours in service work. Be connected in community work and leadership. Show hospitality to those who serve the community. Send gift cards to cops. Take cookies to the fire station. Provide lunch in the teachers lounge. The church should lead the way in generosity and hospitality, even if we have to awkwardly, yet confidently stumble into it.
5. Act Justly, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly
There are too many injustices in our world. Find those places and lead your church to act justly and love mercy. As Bill Hybels puts it, what gives you a “holy discontent”? Humility isn’t thinking of yourself so little that you just give up trying. Humility, like Philippians 2, is taking on the very nature of a servant and inserting yourself into the equation to be helpful. The world is in need of a church who throws caution to the wind and takes risks investing all the talents they are given on behalf of the poor, hurting, lost and lonely. The world needs a church who will humbly insert themselves into the world – being salt and light. [The Low Confidence Church and What to do About It].
6. Develop a Culture of Being a Light
Develop a common vision and language about being “a light” in the community. Remind people to invite others. Encourage people to use their gifts and not to “hide them under a bushel”. Build up and highlight those places where the church is at work. Celebrate what is already happening. Keep it in front of your people – your church is here, in this area, for however many years, with one goal – to live out the mission of Jesus.
7. Invite Your People Into Mission
Our church folk need the opportunity to serve in mission up close and personal. As they do, they will begin to experience what it means to be God’s hands and feet. This active involvement is about the only fool proof way to ensure that people will grasp it. There’s something about serving in the name of Jesus that empowers people. Figure out ways to actively offer mission opportunities to your church – both students and adults. It doesn’t have to cost money – it can be local, close to home opportunities to begin with.
Pray for God to be at work in your church and your people. Pray for His light to shine over the darkness. Then take risks to be that light in the dark places, the highways and byways to share God’s love. Re-read Isaiah 60 – and may the blessing of God’s light shine on you and your ministry today!
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