Engaging the Community

Today’s post is brought to you by the following definition I read in the preview to a book I am reading “On the Verge: A Journey into the Apostolic Future of the Church” The definition of missional church was used by Reggie McNeal as he wrote an introduction to the book

The missional church engages the community with the intent of being a blessing. It looks for ways to connect with the world beyond the walls of church real estate and programming.

Three words stand out to me in this definition. Engages, Blessing and Connect.

Engages – Too often, the church does for the community or does to the community instead of engaging with the community. I know the church is not supposed to be “of the world” but too many times we are not “in the world” either. We tend to stay in our little corner of the community doing our own stuff.

Blessing – When the church does engage with the community, does the term blessing come to mind. Service YES, meeting needs YES, being a blessing ??? I guess the reason I wonder is that to me the term blessing carries connotations of not only physical or emotional gifts.  The word blessing is a “holy” word, a word used of God and by God. When we say we engage with the community with the intent of being a blessing, are we engaging with the community with God’s intent and purpose in mind?

Connect – Beyond the walls and beyond the programming – in other words, get to truly know our neighbors. Relate to them simply for the reason they are one of God’s children – whether they realize it or not. And then show them God through our love and kindness. “They will know we are Christians by our Love” How many times, do we plan events, programs, ministries with the goal of reaching “X” amount of people and when we don’t get to “X” we are disappointed.

Let me finish with a story: Over the past three days a youth group from a church in North Carolina, who have spent the week at Global Youth Ministries, has come down to our fellowship hall to lead Bible Club for the children of the community. I felt bad, because we had not advertized this Bible Club as heavily as we had before and it seemed that first afternoon there were more members of the youth group than kids at the Bible Club. However, over the past three days, they seemed to have had a good time. Today, their youth pastor told me this story. First of all, he said that his kids had fallen in love with the children this week and in fact one young man, who had just moved to America from Liberia 9 months ago (he only spoke broken English) came up to the youth pastor and said that his parents had given him $60 to spend on their trip but that he didn’t need anything, that these kids needed it more than he did. His youth pastor said that all of the kids starting digging in their wallets & Purses and started handing him money (One middle schooler came up and handed him a $20 while I was standing there)

Wow! I’ll leave you with a question?  Who received the blessing when this youth group engaged the community?

 

 

Ferguson, Dave (2011). On the Verge: A Journey Into the Apostolic Future of the Church (Exponential Series) (Kindle Locations 127-128). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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Where’s the Fruit?

I’ll be preaching this Sunday (July 17th) from Matthew 21:18-22,  known as the “cursing of the fig tree”

The only negative miracle in the New Testament, this act by Jesus seems out of character.  I know I get cranky when I get hungry, but this is Jesus. He is not supposed to curse a fig tree simply because it annoyed him.

As I studied this morning I came across some really good insights into this passage and will be sharing some of the questions, that came to mind about this story, this week.

Today, I want to focus on the context & the symbolism of this “curse”  This passage is shared with us immediately after Jesus cleansed the temple, so Jesus is likely thinking about that encounter. We also know that when Matthew uses the term for fruit here (17 times in the Gospel) he never means it literally. The word is always used ethically as in productivity – bearing fruit – doing something from your faith. So it looks like Jesus is using the fig tree as a symbol of the Temple/ the people of Israel.

The fig tree has the appearance of fruit, but does not bear any fruit at all. (hold onto this thought for a minute)

We also find several occasions in the Old Testament ( Micah 7:1, Hosea 9:16 & others) where the prophets reference the fig tree with the fruitlessness of Israel.

Jesus, it seems, is not annoyed at the fig tree at all, but rather he is angry at the People of Israel (like many of the OT prophets) for their lack of fruitfulness. They may play the part (rituals in the Temple, etc) but they are barren when it comes to the fruit of righteousness and justice that God desires.

God’s children (you and I are included in this) must produce that for which we were created -to carry out God’s will, which  means entering into a relationship with God and then demonstrating fruit from that relationship in our life.

So here are the questions:

1) What fruit are we supposed to bear as a result of our relationship with God?  (Hint: See Galatians 5:22)

2) If we compare the church to the People of Israel, how do you think the church is unfruitful?

3) Why do you think that Jesus is angry about the lack of fruitfulness?  And what does that anger mean for us today?

I would love to hear your answers and thoughts on these questions.