When missionaries are commissioned to plant a church, they are expected to reach the community to which they have been sent. For instance, a missionary sent to a suburb of Omaha, Nebraska is expected to reach the people in that particular area through community engagement. Many times this takes shape as a service project such as handing out water bottles at a county fair to meet people or volunteering to feed the volunteer fire department in order to build relationships.
So when does it stop? When does a new church reach the point that it no longer needs to emphasize community involvement?
Of course, the answer is never.
Why, then, do many churches neglect community outreach? Perhaps it happens when a congregation loses focus on its mission and becomes institutionalized. Institutionalization occurs when the mission changes from an outward focus to an inward focus. Every church struggles with the temptation to institutionalize. Face it, reaching out means sacrificing time and resources that would otherwise be self-serving. Every decision within the church, therefore, must be made with intentional focus on the mission. Will the new budget reflect an emphasis on projects that enhance the church’s comfort, or projects that reach the community with the gospel? Will the next VBS be focused on ministering “church kids” or will efforts be made to invite unchurched children? Is the next sermon series going to make us comfortable with our “holy huddle” or challenge us to share the gospel with our neighbors?
As long as there are unbelievers in the vicinity, the church must make efforts to engage the community. The Great Commission demands no less.
So how will your church get involved? Let me challenge you to find at least one way to reach outside the walls of your church for the sake of making a kingdom investment. What will be your community mission?