Thursday, December 15, 2011

Compassion by Design

As a pastor, I believe the role of the church is to make a positive and lasting impact on the community in which it resides.  I believe the church should also operate with a missional approach in the way it functions.  Recently, I was asked a question that has inspired me in deep way.  The question was “If my church disappeared would anybody notice?”  In other words, what type of impact is my church having on the people in the community?  Are we producing something that is of genuine value to the people around us?  

My final assignment of the semester was to gain a true perspective of the community in which I live.  Strategically I surveyed key members of the community, people who are directly involved with the way it functions (i.e. Teachers, doctors, community service employees, local government employees etc.) The purpose was to compile their responses and identify the specific needs of the community.  The results were very interesting.

The graph below illustrates the areas in my community that present the greatest challenge.  The evidence is clear.  According to my research, the biggest challenges that exist are directly related to family life.  The sampling of this survey was limited, yes; however, 80% of those who were surveyed alluded to the fact that the future of family life is a concern. 

             It is interesting to note that the next three high-percentage variables in this graph; stress, financial pressures, and resources for teens may all be contributing factors to the success or non-success of a healthy family life. 
            Through the eyes of the world, it is difficult to see any immediate relief in the areas of stress and financial pressures.  Although, there is a solution.  Jesus teaches us in Matthew 11:28 to find rest in Him. He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  This passage is the formula for living a stress-free life.  This truth also provides a peace that eliminates financial pressures because we are told to trust Christ with everything in our lives and depend solely on Him.

This message is what the church believes.  The question is, “what are we (the church) doing to inform others of this truth?”  There is an old African proverb that states “In the desert there is a sin greater than murder.  It is knowing where the water is and not telling anyone.”  As a pastor this resonates strongly within me.  I believe that as a follower of Christ I have an obligation to ensure that the message of peace and hope in Christ is not only shared verbally but displayed through my life as well.          

As the church we have been shown the mysteries of how to livea life with purpose and meaning.  Developing strategies with a foundation of love is absolutely necessary for breaking through the obstacles that threaten a healthy family life. 

With the diagnosis of the survey it is clear that something needs to be done to help resolve the problem.   There is no time to sit back and wait for others to come up with a solution.  I think maybe our mindset should be “if we don’t do something about it, who will?” The second part of this assignment was to identify three possible community outreaches that will serve the community and make lasting impact.  
              First, we know that the future of a quality family life is a major concern in the community.  Interestingly enough my church is in the developmental stages of launching a family bible club called “Re-Fuel”.  The objective of this outreach will be to provide an environment that will help parents and children to re-focus, re-charge and re-connect.   Additionally, the motive is to bring families together not only to enjoy their time together with games, snacks and crafts but also to help them grow together spiritually.  We believe that God developed the family model and He desires to see it operate in mutual love and respect for one another.  Unfortunately, many people were never taught these fundamental life principles.  “Re-fuel” will aim to do just that.

                Secondly, the research indicated the need for teenage resources.  This is a difficult task, but one that is very much needed.  It is no secret that teenagers are living in a critical time in history when moral standards are becoming obsolete.  Sadly we are seeing more and more that the main source of entertainment for teenagers becomes experimental drug use and sexual promiscuity.  I don’t have the answer to seeing a dramatic shift in this dilemma, but what I can do is provide a place for young people to come and hang out.  This outreach would essentially be a place where teenagers can enjoy everyday activities like playing basketball or hosting a video game tournaments etc.   The purpose of this outreach will be to intentionally build relationships with these kids and to provide a positive influence in their lives.  My heart’s desire is to see a new culture established in this community; a culture of young people who are set out to be positive leaders for Christ among their peers.

                Finally, I discovered that a major concern for people in the future is the state of their financial situation.  There are many people who have not been taught the fundamentals of managing their money.  Over time the result of this lack of education is the uncertainty of how they will make it through another year financially.  I believe that we can serve the community in love by providing a free class that would teach individuals the basics of money management.  I know that if I was unaware of something that could truly benefit my family and someone found it in their heart to show me; I wouldn’t reject that.  It’s a biblical principle applied in a practical way.  Treat other as you would have them treat you.

This assignment was an eye opener.  So much so that I plan to execute this type of survey once more on a much larger scale of this community.  I believe that it is the role of a church to love and serve the community in which it has been placed.  It’s a simple yet vital part of being a follower of Jesus Christ.  If our desire is to be more like Him, then action is needed.  This reminds me of line from the band Coldplay which asks “am I a part of the cure, or am I part of the disease?”   Chew on that for a while.

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