I love change and I’m a problem solver so it should come as no surprise that the topic of transformation excites me. As I pondered the question, ‘How can a church transform itself and the community around it?’, I arrived at three points that need to be explored and clarified.
Firstly, we need to understand what, or who, is the church? The church is not a building, organisation or club we visit once a week; the church is you and me.
Secondly, we need to acknowledge that God has given us all a role to play and calls us both collectively and as individuals to impact on the world in which we live.
Thirdly, we need to find out how we can impact on those around us?
So how do we as God’s church have an impact on the world around us? We lead such busy lives and it’s often tempting for us to use church as a solely personal experience and as an opportunity to catch up with friends. It’s important to remember what God’s purpose for the church is, that we might come together to worship, learn and fellowship and then ‘go out into the world and make disciples of all nations’ (Matt 28: 19). Did you notice that Jesus didn’t say ‘pastors, teachers or missionaries’ go out? This instruction is directed to all believers, so we all have a role to play. Every one of us can influence and have an impact on the lives of those around us through the way we live.
We can often fall into the trap of thinking we need to convince people that they must believe, and we work so hard to win them over. However, this approach all too often achieves the opposite and alienates people. I heard a sermon by Pastor Karl Faase recently when he explained it so simply. Speaking from John 9 about the blind man whom Jesus healed, Karl said, ‘The blind man was not convinced by information; not changed by community; not moved by worship; not persuaded by argument; but his life was changed radically by the power of God’. Whilst there is nothing wrong with information, community, worship and healthy argument, we must remember that it is not our job to convince people or to change them; we are to be a conduit that leads them to God, but ultimately it is only the power of God that can transform lives.
At the beginning of each year we adopt a theme at my home church and this year’s theme is ‘Send me’. It’s been wonderful to watch many people stepping up, using their gifts and passion to impact on their community. One example is a ‘homework attack’ program that one of the women has started at a local primary school, offering afternoon tea and homework help one afternoon a week. Something as simple as this can have a profound impact on a child and their extended family, not to mention the impact this has on the school community. I’m a big believer in allowing your life to do the talking; everywhere we go and everyone we brush up against is a potential mission field. Are you ready to step up and say ‘Yes Lord, send me?’
At HopeStreet, seeing lives transformed is at the very heart of our vision and mission. Our programs address the physical needs of social justice – educating, equipping and empowering people to reclaim control of their lives. This work is made so much more powerful because it is undergirded by Christian values and the work is carried out by people who are eager to influence and impact on the community around them. Our conversation of faith is typically a non-verbal one; we are watched closely by those we work with and we seek to be a conduit that allows lives to be transformed, not just by what we can teach them, but radically changed by the power of God.