The church. Not a peripheral organization but a central and integral part of the community. Well at least that’s what it should be.
As our particular expression of the church begins to embrace this mandate, many pastors and leaders are asking the question of “how?” There are as many answers as there are communities to be a part of, but answering these questions have been the most rewarding and fruitful part of leading a church for me.
I have been a social worker 10 years before pastoring full time. Went to a public school, studied at a secular university. I love to have conversations about meaningful things. I have had countless conversations with people wrestling with a theistic conviction but struggling with the realities of the communities that represent connection with God. Before we even consider making efforts to engage with the community around us, we need to address our community Dis-engagement.
When we polarize and oversimplify arguments in the name of ‘morality’ instead of engageing in understanding and compassionate conversations, we offend and we disengage.
When we insist on denying scientific fact in the name of biblical literalism (think 6 day-new earth creation) – we loose credibility, we disengage.
When we swallow political agendas and relentlessly deny the existence of a problem (think Climate change), or lack the compassion that Jesus calls us to (think refugees), we appear at best ignorant, more likely abhorant to those who are concerned – we disengage.
When we embrace political or business leaders because they support particular agendas, regardless of their overall lack of integrity and character, we loose our integrity – we disengage.
When prosperity takes primacy, we become a wedge between the gospel and those who have experienced lack or loss, or who are convicted about equality and compassion- We disengage.
When we pervert the gospel for personal gain, twist scripture into personal fulfillment guidlines and misrepresent the heart and teaching because it is invonvenient – we become irrelevant and ineffective. The powerful message of hope and restoration, the coming Kingdom of God and saving power of Jesus is lost in a sea of self help and personal coaching mantras. – we disengage.
More often that not many disengagement strategies go hand in hand with a complete lack of engagement strategies. Perhaps because, by nature, engagement requires these things are addressed. The conversations, the relationships, even the conflicts and arguments are all what taught me what disengagement looks like.
When we simultaneously fail at community engagement and succeed spectacularly at disengagement, not only does the church suffer, as it becomes insulated and isolated, but the community and society suffers as the potential positive impact and influence of the Christian community is shut down.