If your church one day ceased to exist, what would people in the community say?
When I first heard this question years ago, it struck me. Perhaps it was because most churches I was a part of growing up seemed to be little known in the community.
But I think it was because, intuitively, it struck me that the church should be known and should be so impactful on the community that people would mourn its loss. Somewhere in the back of my mind were Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount:
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Mt. 6:13-16).
In The Externally Focused Church, authors Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson emphasize that service is the pathway to impacting the community and kingdom growth.
"As we moved outside the walls of our church, we weren't surprised that the lives of those we were serving changed. But we were caught a little off guard by the community's receptivity, the eagerness with which people volunteered their time and energy, and the resulting changes in their lives . . . . For two years LifeBridge members helped clean toilets and paint hallways at local elementary schools during Christmas break. Recently we were invited into kindergarten classrooms to help the kids make crafts. At the same school in which we had cleaned toilets for two years, we are now able to have a direct impact on the students and the teachers. Last year when a local high school student took his life, the school principal called Lifebridge." p. 57-58
Through these types of acts of service, Lifebridge grew from 1100 to 3000, with 80% of their growth coming from the unchurched and dechurched in their community.
This was, in fact, how the early church grew as well, and how we can grow too.
What needs do you see in your community, and how can the church serve and meet these needs? Why is service so impactful in reaching people for Christ?