This is Part 1 of a 2 part article posting for www.askwhatnow.org
You can read part one here
When you’re in, you’re out
A couple from our community, who had first connected through our Compassion Christmas dinner, first taught me this principle. These guys had been coming along to church for a while when one day our Director of Compassion ministries stood up to tell the church how we wanted to start a food giveaway project to reach the hungry in our community. He asked each of us to bring in some non-perishable food items that we could pull together in order to give away to those in need in our community
When the couple went home the husband announced that he felt they should bring in something for the food giveaway. His wife disagreed with the decision, if the truth be known this couple were in need of receiving the food giveaway, but after some to-ing and fro-ing with the decision, she finally relented and he was allowed to bring in a battered old tin of beans for the giveaway. He walked into church as proud as punch on that day and handed in his tin of beans. We were blown away by his generosity and promptly told the church the story.
Remember, story changes.
Not long afterwards our pastor received a call from a person in the church who requested a meeting. At this meeting the man passed over an envelope, inside was a cheque which contained more zeros than any of us had seen previously. The man looked at our pastor and said
“That’s just my tin of beans”
We were able to do a whole lot more with that cheque that the tin of beans but if the first man didn’t bring his tin of beans then the heart shift in the second man wouldn’t have happened.
This man had many issues he was working on, he needed our help and our compassion but Jesus wasn’t waiting for this man to get life straightened out before He used him in His service. He didn’t wait for him to achieve balance in his walk before He asked him to bring what he had.
It’s for that reason that as soon as someone connects in, we turn them out. Who better to reach out to those outside the church than someone who has just made the transition? As we studied the Scriptures we reckoned that if Jesus could use a man who had just been released from a legion of demons to front up His gospel message to 10 cities and a recently enlightened Samaritan women to reach an entire town then we could challenge even those who were very new to church to play.
Refresh, Remind, Reward
It doesn’t take long for us to become inward in our thinking. Our human nature seeks comfort, understanding and a trusting circle of people. Churches are made up of ‘us’ so naturally it doesn’t take long for churches to turn inwards. Even the most outward focused ministries can very quickly turn inward unless we keep an outward bias at the forefront of our minds.
It is our job as leaders to keep leaning towards the Father’s direction and reminding our people of the mission we are a part of. This involves us thinking clearly about how we communicate that. Any phrase, regardless of how brilliant its composition, can become ineffective as its familiarity grows.
Since 2003 we have never really changed what we are trying to do but we have changed how we communicate that vision on a number of occassions. We are continually refreshing how we communicate vision to remind everyone that the mission that was on the table all those years ago is the same mission today. It means that new people know what they are signing up to and those who have been around for ages feel like they are signing up again.
We are also keen to celebrate when we hear stories of people who are seeing that vision come closer in their daily lives. We highlight and thank people who take the hugest risks to see the Kingdom come in their community. We get that Jesus is the ultimate reward but in the same way He would celebrate people who showed extraordinary faith. We feel it’s important to do the same, which in turns ignites faith in the rest of us who want to see the same thing in our day to day.
These 4 principles are in constant use. We never stop thinking through them and applying them to our situation. In a community which is constantly changing we need to be continually listening to His leading and until He wants to speak a different direction over our community we remain committed to the original call of reaching the lost while He looks after the church.