Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How Do You Measure Success

A cloud is on the horizon! Winds of change are gathering strength! A storm is coming…it is a storm of change!

All over the world the Spirit of God is causing sincere believers to re-examine how we “DO CHURCH.” It is no longer about size…small groups…spiritual gifts…or seeker sensitivity. It’s about making a significant and sustainable difference in the lives and families of our communities and cities! There is a growing awareness that we cannot continue to do the “same old things” and get different results! If we want to be “Salt and Light” as God meant us to be, we must do something different and be something different!

Community transformation will not be accomplished alone by spiritual services, powerful preaching, musical masterpieces, or choir cantatas—as good as these are. The church today needs a “Churchquake” of seismic proportions if it is going to be all and do all that the third Millennium requires!

I define “Churchquake” as a paradigm shift! A “paradigm” is a model consisting of shared assumptions of what is true or what works! A “paradigm shift” is “a moment of ‘AHA!’ when one sees things in a new light and can never go back to the old ways again!”

The first paradigm shift we need is a shift from building walls to building bridges! Matthew 5:13-14 states, “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.” The root of this first paradigm shift is to ask ourselves this question: How do we as the church see ourselves in relation to our community? Most churches see themselves as outside the community inviting people to “come into the church and out of the ‘world’ and be separate.” As the Church, we must begin to see ourselves as inside the community as an agent of change and transformation! Being “separate” in values and lifestyle is not the same as being “isolated” from those God has called us to love and reach.

Here is a real example from a church in a mid-western state. One day a pastor became “fed up” with the marginalization of his church within his city. He knew that his people had what thousands needed and desired but did not know how to find. So he made an appointment with the mayor and asked one question, “How can we help you?”

The mayor gave him a list of “Challenges Facing the City.” He went back to his church and asked them one question, “What can we do that will cause people of this city to say that God is here and at work in this city for no one could do these things if God were not with him?” This simple leadership act made that Church no longer a “walled-in clique,” but a “bridge-building church” to the community God called it to love and influence!

Since then, in just four years, one hundred other churches joined that one! Five thousand volunteers built bridges into their city by building parks and playgrounds, refurbishing fifty schools, setting records for Red Cross Blood donations, enlisting thousands of new organ donors, offering scores of “Life Skill Classes” on finance, marriage, aging, parenting with over 5,000 attending, and donating nearly $1,000.000 to human service organizations for at risk youth.

All of this leads to one conclusion: once a church makes the mental shift from “set apart” to “Salt and Light,” it is limited only by its imagination and creativity in how it can serve and transform its community and city!

But a legitimate question arises. “Is this what the church is – a social service organization?” Of course not! The Church is the visible expression of the Kingdom of God in the earth! Well, then, is it not enough to stand there separate and “over against” the community (the world) and “throw the Gospel like a rock” at it? No! It is not enough. Jesus’ command was to “go into the world-system and make disciples…” We must do everything in our power to earn the right to shine our light (the Word of God) and sprinkle our salt (the Spirit of God) in our city!

When we have “made His praise glorious” by our good deeds and people see them and begin to “glorify our Father who is heaven,” the door will be open to plant the seed of Christ’s love that will heal hurting hears, mind shattered, restore broken families, and transform our city from within! This is our mission! This is why God has placed us in our city!

Let’s stop just providing ministry programs and worship services for our community and earn the right topenetrate our community as “Salt and Light” to offer help, healing, and perhaps even transformation!

From the Coalition of Apostles.

Ronald E. Cottle, Ph. D., Ed. D. Christian Life Educators Network