«BAKKE GRADUATE UNIVERSITY TRANSFORMATIONAL POWER OF LEADERSHIP COMMUNITIES: ASSESSING LEADERSHIP NETWORK’S EFFECTIVENESS IN ACCELERATING THE ...»
1. Preach about it regularly. Build into the rhythms of preaching and teaching God’s heart for those on the margins (see chapter three) and the absolute need for service and ministry as it pertains to our spiritual formation (see chapter four essay on Ephesians 2:8-10). The message of good news and good deeds resonates not only with believers but with seekers and unbelievers as well. A strong theological base forms the foundation for implementing the remaining four strategies.
2. Make it part of the ministry plan. In every planning cycle each ministry department, from children to senior adults, should be asked to submit, as part of their plan, what they will do to get the people in their bailiwick, ministering and serving outside the walls of the church. All churches staff, budget, and plan
3. Infuse externally focused service into small groups. Most likely small groups are the simplest and most efficient way to regularly engage congregants in externally focused ministry. Every small group (community group, life group, etc) can be asked to have regular engagement in ministry or service outside the church or the small group. A practical means of implementation is to have each small group partner with a human service agency outside the church. Then four to six times per year, instead of meeting for three hours in someone’s home, these groups serve in ministry together. Service and ministry become what it means to be part
4. Engage in annual church-wide externally focused projects. Every church can provide an annual day or weekend where everyone in the church can participate in a community service project. Externally focused churches call these events “Sharefest,” “Carefest,” or “Serve Day,” etc. One church in California calls their day of service, “Beautiful Day.” Among the variety of projects churches are engaged in, they also can partner with schools to execute work projects— painting, landscaping, deep cleaning, repair work, etc, that shrinking school budgets simply cannot allow. Such projects don’t require previous screening and can include the contribution of people of all ages—from babies in backpacks to senior adults. There is something very valuable and enduring about parents and children working side by side for a day. Service puts shoe leather on our spiritual words. These one-off events often lead to greater ongoing engagement for a larger percentage of congregants. People don’t serve twice until they’ve first served
5. Partner with others in the city who care about what and who your church cares about. Partnerships with local schools or human service agencies that serve those in distress help make permanent the desire of a church to engage and serve the community. People of good will make great partners with people of good faith.
One does not have to start a new church-based organization to have an impact.
Casey Yorman, Outreach Pastor at North Coast Church, Vista California, interview by author, Vista California, 16 September 2005.
Many churches have discovered it’s better to join with something God is doing through his common grace in an existing non-profit agency than trying to created and resource a new ministry of their own. Rather than creating new faith-based entities, which take up kingdom resources, why not partner with others in the city who share a common concern for things your church cares about? Churches are finding there is tremendous leverage when they discover they can partner with most any organization or entity that is morally positive and spiritually neutral.
Working with those outside the normal spheres also puts Christians in face to face and shoulder to shoulder relationships that spawn a thousand unlikely conversations through which people come to faith. One does not partner around theology but around what the church and the community commonly care about in
Broaden the Definition of “Ministry” Traditionally many churches narrowly define “ministry” as evangelism, discipleship, teaching a class, or leading a small group. As one broadens the definition of “ministry” to include “meeting someone else’s needs with the resources God has entrusted to you,” [my definition] believers can find a thousand ways to be useful to their community and every Christ-follower can discover their Ephesians 2:10 calling (see Chapter Four)—the intersection where their personal passions intersect with God’s purpose, where that person feels fully alive and he or she makes a difference in the world.
Good Friends Help Transform Good Intentions into Good Deeds Although this project did not uncover this finding, I did discover this insightful principle from my preparatory reading of Dr. Ram Cnaan’s research. Here’s the discovery. The most determinative factor in serving outside the church is not personal convictions, spiritual giftedness, great intentions, biblical literacy, or quality of prayer life. The most determinative factor is being part of a spiritual community and doing it together with others. Cnaan writes, Church attendance is a much stronger predictor [of volunteering] than anything else.
Put simply, church attendance and participation in church programs are by far the strongest predictors of volunteering. People who participate tend to volunteer and visa versa, telling us that volunteering should be conceptualized as a close cousin to worship attendance and program participation. 13 Cnaan continues with the role that churches as social networks play in engaging
Most volunteer coordinators now that the best way to recruit volunteers is to approach them through people they know and trust. Volunteering is social, and therefore, it is the participation in a congregation and the bonding with other congregants that foster volunteering among religious people. It is the social function of the congregation that actualizes the religious teaching of helping others.14 One may conclude that Hebrews 10:24-25 (“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together…but let us encourage one another….) is not merely a prescriptive exhortation towards good deeds but is also descriptive of how good deeds are most effectively carried out.
Cnaan’s findings support the aforementioned suggestion for engaging small groups in externally focused service as a means of accelerating engagement in community ministry. Cnaan also cites other studies from the United States, Canada,
Belgium and Australia that confirm the positive correlation between congregational involvement and community engagement.15 Figure Out Ways to be Useful to the Community Often times the accepted approach to ministry is to come up with a program and then offer it to the community. Those church leaders who are getting traction from their externally focused ministry have taken a different approach. They start by asking the question to school principles, mayors, executive directors of human service agencies and community leaders the same question Jesus asked: "What do you want me to do for you?" (Mat. 20:32, Mk. 10:51, Lk. 8:41), and they end up tutoring children, painting homes for elderly and disabled, refurbishing broken playgrounds, and a thousand other things that put them face to face and shoulder to shoulder with their neighbors. This question does not supplant the need for “asset-based ministry,” which the scope of this paper does not cover. This question simply is a well-defined step to get churches engaged in their communities based on the needs and dreams of the community. Churches that are effectively engaging their communities have discovered that becoming good news often precedes sharing good news.
Good Deeds Create Good Will and Good Will is a Wonderful Platform for Sharing the Good News As the church engages the community with good deeds, most all of the time this service translates into good will. It’s easy for churches to become self-congratulating when the community recognizes and thanks them profusely for their help. Good will, however, is not good news. School principals, parents, and neighbors are grateful for the love and service showed to them, but faith still comes from hearing the good news of the See Cnaan, The Invisible Caring Hand, pp 216-228 for data of these studies.
gospel (Romans 10:16). When people in the community are shown grace (unmerited favor) and mercy (help or relief for those in distress), two questions inevitably arise: (1) Who are you? (2) Why are you doing this? The good will becomes the platform for sharing the good news—if we are paying attention. Service provides the opportunity to see and hear the gospel. Tim Keller writes, … the ministry of mercy is a dynamic witness to those with whom you share the gospel, because it builds a ‘plausibility structure’ for our message. Most Christians in evangelism seek only to make the gospel credible, to make it cogent and persuasive intellectually. But people believe in a message mostly for non-rational reasons. A belief appears convincing to the degree that it is supported by a consistent, loving group or community. The mercy ministry of Christians provides tremendous social and psychological support for the validity of the gospel. Thus the economic sharing of the early church lent power to the apostle’s preaching (Acts 4:32,33), and thus Jesus teaches that visible love among Christians will convince unbelievers of the truth (John 17:21). The ministry of mercy, then, is the best advertising a church can have.
It convinces a community that this church provides people with action for their problems, not only talk. It shows the community that this church is compassionate.16 So perhaps the best apologetic is one that is demonstrated as much as postulated.
To be effective churches must learn how to combine compassionate service with passionate proclamation.
Churches Must First be Transformed if They Hope to Transform Anyone Else In spite of all the need for change and transformation that is needed in cities and communities, the area over which pastors and church leaders have the most influence, and the area that is perhaps in the most desperate need of change, is the church.
Historically, it is my observation that Christian leaders are fairly adroit at informing other domains of society (media, education, entertainment, technology, etc.) of their need to change, while ignoring the changes the church can make. Christian leaders are often Timothy Keller, Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road (Phillipsburg, New Jersey, P&R Publishing Co., 1997), 212.
impotent in getting the adherents of our faith to follow God’s precepts but often demand that secular society live by them. If the church could be changed and her people transformed and infused with kingdom values lived out through kingdom actions, these changed lives would perhaps be the most powerful catalyst for transformation. Professor of Theology at Notre Dame, Richard McBrien, suggests a balanced role for religion in a pluralistic America.
First every religious community may demand conformity to its beliefs on the part of its own members. Second, no group in a pluralist society may demand that government legislate a moral conviction for which support in society at large is lacking. Third, any group, including any church, has the right to work toward a change in society’s standards through persuasion and argument. Finally, no group may legitimately impose its religious or moral convictions on others through the use of force, coercion, or violence.17 McBrien’s words, in most cases, are in stark contrast to the church’s de facto strategy for influence. Christian leaders often ask those outside the church to adhere to Christian standards while ignoring the behavior of those inside their domain of influence, the church. Communities can only be transformed as the church itself is transformed.
Robert Linthicum’s exhorts the church:
How far has the kingdom of God become embodied and made real in the city’s people of God? God’s primary intention for the city is to bring God’s kingdom into that city—to permeate its political, economic, and religious structures, to transform the lives of its inhabitants, to exorcise evil and unrepentant principalities and powers, and to place over that city, not a brooding angel but a Christ who would gather the city to himself…. God would seek to do this in every city by creating in that city a new community: the church. The community would be the very embodiment of God’s kingdom in the city…. Through its witness, the church would call the city to participate in God’s kingdom….That is why [Colin] Marchant insists that the underlying question to every church in every city is this: How far has the kingdom of God become embodied and made real in the life, witness, and social action of your church in this city?18 David Hollenbach, SJ., The Global Face of Public Faith: Politics, Human Rights, and Christian Ethic, (Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2003), 92.
Linthicum, City of God, City of Satan, 105.
To the extent that the church is transformed the community has the potential for transformation.
As with any research project, new questions surfaced during the course of this study that go beyond the scope of this project. These questions may form the basis of a
future project. Such questions would include:
1. Since transformational leadership has to do with changing values as much as with results, how were the values of leaders and volunteers changed in the process?
2. Would the churches have obtained different results if transactional leadership principles, as opposed to transformational leadership principles, were employed?
3. How was the “nature” of the local congregation changed as more volunteers were deployed into the community?
4. How sustainable are the changes in the external focus of a local church?
5. What is the correlation between “good deeds” and “good news” in externally