Over the past three days I shared what amounts to my heart when it comes to seeing the church engage in ministry and fulfill its God-given assignment in its specific context. I shared our purpose. A carefully crafted statement is not the end goal. I shared our vision. If we’re not careful we will only talk about what we want to become. I shared our core values. These values hold meaning only when we remember our desired outcome – a life transformed for and through Jesus Christ. As I mentioned yesterday, Alan Platt’s book City Changers was impactful and resonated with what I believe God was/is desiring to do with the people who make up First Baptist Church Perry. Platt wrote:
If the church is going to positively affect and even transform Babylon, we’re going to need to make a fundamental paradigm shift in how we approach ministry. A paradigm is a framework of assumptions. True community transformation will mot succeed if all we do is add programs to our existing paradigm. What we’ve been doing in church ministry up to now has been good, but it isn’t big enough. Much of the church’s engagement in the community in the past has focused on benevolence, not really on transformation.
I shared two strategies with you yesterday. Strategies tell us how something will happen. They articulate the path to be taken toward a desired result. Strategies move purpose/mission/vision from the air to the street. This was an important part for our people. If members of churches are consistently told how important mission and ministry is and encouraged to be involved (the air) but are never given a place to live out what they have been encouraged to do (the street), they will remain in a constant state of frustration and confusion. Below are our two remaining strategies for moving forward.
Strategy #3: We live in a community suffering from the breakdown of the physical, emotional, and socioeconomic health of the family unit. We will be prepared to assist in ministering to the needs of families and be a source of hope and help in our community.
- We will seek neighborhood/multi-housing units with whom we can form partnerships with the goal of establishing Bible studies that would serve as a bridge from the community to the church. This will require meeting with housing unit managers and asking them how we may serve their residents.
Evangelistic Block Parties
- This is linked to the point above. Block parties are key to forming relationships within neighborhoods through activities for children. It is very important that we put in the work necessary to form/strengthen relationships within the community.
- We have purchased our own portable ministry trailer and equipping it with bounce house, concession equipment, tents, and games that will allow us to enter a neighborhood/event and set up for block party with little effort. We envision its use during VBS, Upward, Back to School Bash, Fall Festival, and other community events, as well as for carrying equipment for our mission teams serving within the state/region.
- We will seek to schedule events throughout the year that allow First Baptist Church to serve people in a meaningful way that strengthens families (back to school events and school supplies, outdoor family movie nights, etc.)
- I envision one Sunday a year to be designated as “Be the Church” Sunday where we will mobilize our people to serve in strategic, pre-arranged projects throughout our community in lieu of our traditional worship service. What better way to show our community what we care about them by giving up, for one day, our time of corporate gathering to serve them.
- I envision a city-wide initiative under the name “Serve Taylor.” This initiative would bring together churches once a year for a few hours on Saturday in service projects all around Perry/Taylor County simultaneously. Our community needs to witness the body of Christ in action together.
Social Service Agencies
- Services are needed for struggling families that will aid them in becoming better equipped in the workforce and at home. We should work alongside agencies who are providing job skill training (resume writing, interviews, etc.) and determine how we can be of assistance. Perhaps space in a newly renovated Missions Center could be devoted to this effort (computer lab, etc.)
City/County/Law Enforcement/Judicial/Business/Health Facilities
- Pastors and church leaders from across the county meet weekly with county, city, and school district officials. These officials share with the pastors their challenges and how they can be prayed for. Churches are being asked for help in making a positive difference in our county.
- Our county judge has asked churches who have parenting classes to make them available that he may offer them as an option when such classes are mandatory.
- Business owners, how can you leverage your influence for the sake of the gospel in the community?
Strategy #4: As Southern Baptists, we are connected at the denominational level. We will strengthen our cooperative partnerships that advance the Gospel.
Taylor Baptist Association
Florida Baptist Convention
- Opportunities exist for church to partner with church planters in South Florida through an initiative called “Send South Florida.”
- It is important that we provide opportunities for mission work that does not require our people getting on a plane.
- Disaster Relief
North American Mission Board
- Explore initiatives within NAMB that seek to address generational poverty, literacy, and church revitalization.
- Explore the possibility of partnering with churches within the 32 identified Send Cities with large populations and minimal evangelical presence.
International Mission Board
- Although not an IMB work, we should strengthen our partnership with Clubhouse Guatemala.
- I envision an additional international partnership in the future. To best utilize the various gifts and talents of our people, this additional partnership should consist of work different from that of Clubhouse Guatemala.
There are questions we are asking and must consistently ask if we are to be a Sending Church:
- Does our current ministry programming reflect an outward focus?
- Does our current staffing/committee structure facilitate an outward -focused ministry?
- How are we preparing people for outward-focused ministry?
- What are the needs of our city?
- Who can we partner with?
- How can we get more people involved?
All of this looks good and easy on paper. I know I am asking a lot from our people. Some of these ideas will come to pass and others will not. Some of these ideas are ongoing and others are seasonal. Some of these ideas will be comfortable for our people and others will not. These strategies embrace a true paradigm shift. What excites me moving forward and encourages me a pastor is the willingness of our people to attempt new things and embrace a way of thinking that may be foreign to them. Will every single member of First Baptist Church buy in and go all in? I would be naïve to say yes. First Baptist Church has a long and storied history: most of it good and some of it bad. I am sure there are certain perceptions of us in our community that are false and others that are true. What has happened in the past is just that -something that happened in the past. For me, it’s all about moving forward and becoming a Sending Church. We have stayed long enough.