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Butterflies Die in Sealed Jars...

From Pew to Pavement and from Pavement to Pew: Disciples as Worshippers, Stewards, Evangelists, Social Justice Advocates and Missionaries Engaged in Christian Community Development Ministry

Today the faith community continues to be challenged by those who question its relevance in the world.[1] Foremost in the minds of many is whether the faithful can legitimately lead or are we doomed to follow? Are we really being salt and light to the world? Given the culture, is the church able to be a catalyst of transformation? In order to respond to these questions, there is a need for the church to answer its own most basic foundational questions and to rethink these questions in relation to the mission of 21 Century church. James White asserts that this strategy requires the church to “get underneath its traditions, programs, and its methods of doing church and ask ---what are we fundamentally trying to do in the modern world?”[2]

Against this backdrop of uncertainty, swirling questions about relevance, the church comes face to face with the Zeitgeist. Here, the faith community is confronted and challenged to ‘read the signs of the times in light of Jesus’ teachings and the nature [or theory] of change”.[3]

Today, the modern church [and the faithful] has become spiritually obese and evangelistically anorexic. However, they are well positioned to come out of hiding and be the authors and agents of the sort of Christian social change that God desires for humanity and the world. To do this, requires the willingness to assemble a diverse cohort of revolutionaries, griots and ‘new bloods’, prophetic ministers, missionaries, educators, and ordinary individuals who are committed to working in and outside of the church to create systemic change that leads to whole people and whole communities. As servants of God, these change agents are partners within the community, bringing together the ‘churched’ and ‘unchurched’. They are persons who have accepted the divine call to be salt and light—they are salty servants of God--Servants of the Sewer not Saints of the Sanctuary. Accepting the call is to embrace The Great Commission which empowers church and people to become witnesses and vessels through which the ‘culture of silence’ is destroyed. These disciples give voice and authenticity to the existence of those once unaware of their own potential and are able to establish caring Shalom communities who freely invite, embrace, include, reconcile, and express the ethic of reciprocity.[4]

Though this framework has broad foci it seeks to develop people in the pews and those on the pavement into the disciples, stewards, evangelists and missionaries whom God has called out of darkness to be servants to the world. As such it requires the faith community to fully and completely know there congregational and ministerial identity---that is who they are in Christ, who they are as an institution of faith and God’s calling.

Willis Bennett writes, establishing a congregational identity is integral to how groups are able to “turn their attention outward so as to be effective in witnessing to the glory of God and the [L]ordship of Christ in the community and in the world”.[5] He goes further to assert that an outward focus suggests the church is aware of its own history, theological leaning, capacity, member talents, and there is clarity regarding the degree of commitment towards the mission.[6] Uppermost, there must be an overwhelming concern for all people but especially those with their backs up against the wall who are within and outside the walls of the church.

Please, be patient with me-God is not through with US yet!

[1] Dinn, Julia, Quitting Church: Why the Faithful Are Fleeing and What to Do About it. pp. 28-29. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book. 2008 [2] White, J. E. Rethinking the Church. pp. 25-26. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. 2008 [3] Ibid, p. 26 [4] Freire, Paulo, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p. 97. Continuum: New York, 1970 [5] Bennett, G. Willis. Guidelines for Effective Urban Church Ministry: Based on a Case Study of Allen Temple Baptist Church. P. 41 Nashville, TN: Broadman Press. 1983 [6] Ibid, pp. 42-44

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