Knowing and Engaging Your Community

“To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours. The Apostle Paul presents four absolute truths about the church in I Corinthians 1:2. The church is Created by God. The church is not man’s creation. The church is created by God. Saved for God. The church has been set apart not for our own glory, but for the glory of God. Together in God. All churches should unite together all over the world. Focused on God. Every church has one unified mission. The church is focused on God. In every church, these four absolutes will never change. However, every church will be unique as they take these absolutes into their unique cultures.

Engaging a New Reality

Vintage Church started in our home in 2008. I was leading a post-Katrina rebuilding ministry and it was not on my radar. In the first year, we experienced the challenge of contextualization. Contextualization has nothing to do with being relevant; it’s about being effective. Unfortunately, most church plants create a DNA from a few good books or from copying their favorite church. Some do this before they even move to their context. There are ecclesiological absolutes, but there is no ecclesiological playbook. Because of my inexperience and the lack of understanding of my community, I copied others and it wasn’t helping us connect with our community. We learned that we needed to create a DNA that was simple and engaging for most in our community. Upon recognizing this mistake, our team implemented a strategy that would keep the individuals in our community leading the mission. This helped us know how to truly engage our community with the Gospel. The three expressions stated below are constantly shared at Vintage Church in this order.

 We learned that we needed to create a DNA that was simple and engaging for most in our community.

Individual Expression. Every person that is saved by the Gospel is empowered by the Gospel to be a witness for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Community Group Expression. Small groups of people scattered all over our city who encourage each other to become more like Jesus. Gathering Expression. Small and large gatherings of corporate ministry and worship. Let me share one example of how we have celebrated this strategy. As a member of Vintage Church, Tamara would spend every Saturday volunteering at a local prison. This prison ministry shared with her about a need to adopt some children for Christmas. As an individual on mission, she went to her community group and asked if they would like to help. Everyone was excited! As she found out more about the need, the prison shared that over 60 kids needed adopting. This need was too large for one person or one group. Tamara and her community group leader met with me and we were pumped to help. As word spread throughout our church we decided to devote an entire worship gathering that we called “Vintage Christmas Adopt.” To this day, that Sunday was my favorite worship gathering in our history. We worshipped, proclaimed Jesus, shared a meal and gave to our new friends in need. This strategy is difficult because it is decentralized and appears out of a pastor’s control. However, a pastor can never connect with all people from a stage or an office. On top of that, if the gatherings of your church lead the mission then you end up spending tons of money on a marketing campaign trying to convince everyone to participate. When you equip individuals to lead the mission, ownership is already there and the word will spread like crazy. This simple strategy will equip the church to stay effective in knowing and engaging their community for Jesus.

Published February 13, 2015