From Dorothy Day’s Catholic mission in the Great Depression to the emergent church movement in the early 2000’s, the mission of the church in a community has been an interesting conversation.
This has often taken the form of ‘community outreach’ and been a luxury by-line of a church budget. Sometimes these various church programs can feel emotionally distanced and transactional, occurring mainly around the holidays. While still usually helpful (although occasionally unhelpful) they may lack the incarnational mission of the long journey with others that Jesus demonstrated.
In other communities, the church programs may be incarnational and integral to the underserved. In those places the church or non-profit can feel overwhelmed, underfunded, unseen and uncelebrated.
In the very near future, we believe church planters and church leaders need to have a paradigm change for the narrowness of going to underserved communities, to something bigger. What if the churches in a community saw the people ‘in’ the church and ‘out’ in the community as the same? What if we saw the value of everyone equally and move congruently to meet needs? What if we saw our church plant, not as an end, but a means? What if we saw the community not just as people to reach, but people to learn from?
While at first blush this might seem like an overwhelming and insurmountable task, we believe that is exactly the level of vision we are called to. And that feeling that it is too much need to meet is the first step to joining other faith communities as overlapping Gospel movements.
The future of city strategy may look like a parish model. Imagine if churches networked together to care for their community, specializing in the needs they address. Rather than competing, they share resources of people, money, and time, working together to bring the kingdom and tangible change to the lives of those who live there.