Monday, March 21, 2016

Does Every Ministry In Church Have the Same Goal? (6 of 8)

I had an opportunity to be on staff with a fairly affluent, influential church for three years where I served for a period both in the social justice department (helping the poor) and also the missions and outreach team (church planting).

Over time it became evident that although the social justice and missions departments had not worked closely together, with time, the two departments would either duplicate each other’s work or would become inter-dependent.  Through conversations and clarifying the vision it was proposed that they could join together and focus on a common goal, be inter-dependent. After all, everyone was on the same team and ultimately shared the same goal.  We even found that each of the department’s transformational development strategy and models were similar in their process and context.

- positioning the church for discipleship... more churches planted

 
Although it was not practically implemented, I saw potential where the missions department would work more hand-in-hand with social justice in reaching poor communities.  Even to the point that through social engagements, the church could go into a particular community to lay a foundation for ministry that could lead to a church.  The newly planted church could be a natural overflow of what God was already doing in that community.  In the missions and outreach department, church planters could be trained to be champions of justice causes and community transformation, all in the context of planting and pastoring a church.

It was a clear, focused strategy, that could be taught and multiplied, which could allow for growth and development and with time lead to effective community social engagements - positioning the church for discipleship eventually leading to spiritual transformation and more churches planted.

In this context, possibilities and opportunities for community engagements are endless and can look different in every area.  For some, it might be focused on vocational training; while others might serve a medical need.  The idea is to partner with local leaders, map a community and focus on the assets or strengths of the community (asset mapping), in order to together bring transformation. 

The ministry targets for church planting and helping the poor could be focused in the same communities; Targeting the slums or urban communities in the city, beginning with the church’s networks and current ministry engagements, pastor’s networks, church plant training and social development engagements, they all would work together for the sake of the Gospel.

A "justice" department in the church should not be viewed as the only department that does social justice but it ought to be seen as the department that helps “the church” (including all ministry departments) facilitate social justice in all sectors, community outreach, seeking transformation through discipleship - loving your neighbor.

 - Disciples naturally want to be the church

 

With these departments working together, church planters, pastors and community workers all are more able to contextualize and be intentional in the transformation of their own communities.  The church has a great chance to stay relative and be indispensable to their community. The church and the social engagements have a symbiotic relationship.  The social engagement can help birth and grow a church by making disciples.  Disciples naturally want to be the church.  The social engagement will help the church stay relative within the community. The church will help the social engagement stay focused on the commission – “go and make disciples.”

The church has always struggled to find the balance in fulfilling the biblical mandate to “go and make disciples”, evangelism, church planting…  and the obedience in reflecting God’s heart for the poor and needy in the world, such as tackling social justice issues.  Too often we separate the two “co-missions” and even find that we struggle to accomplish them individually.  We get frustrated and at times quit because we don’t see the results and even the whole process can feel awkward.  Evangelism can become a forced event, something we check off of the list when we feel we’ve done enough that month.  The reality is that the church generally struggles, or has given up completely to evangelize.

On the other hand, the church’s social justice and philanthropic efforts feel right and good in the moment but also can then essentially take the gospel, kingdom mentality out them and eventually the church will question why we do them at all.  Actually many churches get very far down the road and don’t even recognize they have gone the wrong direction.  Most likely they are a church struggling to grow, struggling in giving and struggling see the positive effects of their ministry.
  
-...the church... can quench the voice of the Holy Spirit

The trend that actually occurs is that churches have re-defined social benevolent causes alone to be the mission of the church.  They have replaced the “go and make” disciples with the caring for “the least of these” and don’t recognize that they might be somewhat off mission.  I would not hesitate to define this as the church falling into another of the devil’s schemes.  The immediate gratification that someone, the church, gets from doing good, can quench the voice of the Holy Spirit to the point that the church acts alone in trying, unsuccessfully, to accomplish the mission, all the while thinking it is still on mission.  The mission is not ruined.  Thankfully the Holy Spirit is fully in control and continues to bring in the Kingdom of God.  It just won’t necessarily happen with all of those he invited in to participate in the mission.

These writings are an effort to piece together the God given passions for the poor, benevolent programs and philanthropic ideas with the generally understood ideas of missions, evangelism and church planting.  The key is to “position for discipleship”  - to put ourselves, as the church, in a place where we naturally, undeniably will lead in such a way that others will want to follow us, follow Jesus.

Every ministry should ultimately be focused on making Jesus known.  When we look at his life in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John),  we find him performing miracles to show that he was the promised Messiah.  The miracles were not just stand alone incidents for the sake of healing or justice.  He got everyone's attention, consistently spoke of the kingdom and prepared his followers, particularly the disciples, to carry on the mission after he was gone.  The disciples did not really understand their mission until after Jesus' resurrection and during those last 40 days.  But in those 40 days before he ascended into heaven,  Jesus clarified the mission, ordained the church to carry it out and promised to send the Holy Spirit as the Helper.  In the book of Acts (Acts of the Apostles) the early church apostles adapted well to the needs of the church.  They eventually got it!  The acts were all done in an effort to make Jesus known, to make more disciples of Jesus.  They worked together, every delegated department.

The mission has not changed. Today we are to carry it on.  Let's not lose focus and change it.   Make Jesus known this Easter.