Change Our Behavior Or Change Our Name!

There is a story about a young man that was brought before Alexander the Great. The young man had stolen a horse and was brought in by the guards so he could be judged. Knowing that this was an offense that was severely punished, everyone waited to see what Alexander would do.

Alexander looked at the boy and was moved by the look of fear on his face. Thinking of leniency, Alexander asked the boy his name. The boy looked up and sheepishly said, “Alexander”. The Emperor taken back, moved toward the boy in anger and said, “Boy, what is your name?” The boy afraid for his life said, “Alexander sir.” No more did the word come out of his mouth that the emperor jumped on the boy and threw him to the ground. Enraged he pointed at the boy and said, “Boy, change your behavior or change your name!”

I am not sure of the authenticity of the story, but I think the point is well taken. We need to walk our talk!

The Bible in the book of James says, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. (James 2:14-17)

There are needs all around us. We need to be busy helping to meet those needs. The church has ignored the cries of those around them for too long. We have lost of credibility as people helpers. When is the last time a church has been invited to meetings about social needs? Helping reduce crime, eradicate poverty, provide affordable housing, help the homeless. These and hundreds of other social needs are crying out for help. Where are we? If we were brought before Jesus today and had to give an account of what we and our churches are doing to make a difference outside our four walls, what would He say? Would we hear, “Well done good and faithful servant!” or “Change your behavior or change your name!”

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We Can Make A Difference

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I was only sixteen when I would fill up my car with friends and lead a parade of other cars down to Myrtle and Twelfth street in Detroit. Usually, thirty-five or so of us teenagers from Thurston High School Christian Club would go to Ness Memorial Children’s Mission every Wednesday and Thursday night. We would put on a weekly program for the hundred or so inner-city children. It was there that I first saw the needs of a distraught neighborhood. Going with the Director, Mr. Van, to pick up children and take them home, I would find people living in poverty, overcrowded and often without their daily needs met. After high school, I moved into the mission to work with Mr. Van while attending Wayne State University. Besides the two weekly evening Bible Clubs, we worked with feeding, clothing, housing and trying to meet the needs of the children that lived in the community. I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the situation and deeply touched by the love, concern, and sacrifice of Mr. Van.

I was enrolled in Monteith College, a division of Wayne State, which had a strong social science department. It just so happened that one of my teachers was deeply involved in a brand new social concept called “Urban Renewal”. As a result in 1969, I became involved in Detroit’s “Cass Corridor” Urban Renewal project. It was there that I first worked on community development. I began to see that poverty, economics, housing, education, zoning, politics were all part of a system. I learned that if we were going to really make changes, we would have to get to the systemic roots of the problems.

It would take years for me to fully understand the influence that those early days had on me. It was not until I worked for World Relief that I started to understand more about the needs of a community and was introduced to community and economic development on a worldwide level. It was so exciting to see how creative programs could make such a difference. I became so excited that I wanted to share the theory of community and economic development with local churches. I believed if we could harness the manpower and resources of the congregations scattered within a thirty to forty mile radius of poor neighborhoods, we could make a dramatic difference! It would take seven more years but God prepared my heart through many wonderful ministry experiences. During my ministry at Central Baptist Children’s Services, Breakthrough Urban Ministries and Adventures In Missions, I saw many wonderful programs and ministries make great differences in the lives of so many. It was finally in Gainesville, Georgia that God led me to start Walking the Talk Ministry and The Lay Ministry Institute in order to motivate and mobilize adults to help with the overwhelming needs of the poor neighborhoods in this country.

I had just left as Vice President of Adventures In Missions with a passion to get adults and local churches interested in short-term mission projects in the inner-cities of the United States. As I was sitting one morning on my garden bench, I was reading the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. Jerusalem lay in rubble, utterly destroyed. The Jews were dispersed throughout the world and yet one man, Nehemiah, with a strong belief in God, dared to make a difference. Nehemiah is not as familiar as the other Old and New Testament characters. There are no great miracles recorded, like the parting of the Red Sea; yet the supernatural working of God through the life of Nehemiah and the people he influenced, produced great results. It was through Nehemiah that God rebuilt the city of Jerusalem. God called Nehemiah, a humble cupbearer of the King Artaxerxes, to respond to the needs of Jerusalem. Nehemiah obeyed God and restored the ruined city, snatching it from the brink of oblivion.

As I read the account of Nehemiah I saw a picture of community renewal and development. There’s a chapter where the author names the different gates that were being rebuilt. As he named the dung gate, water gate, sheep gate, it suddenly hit me that the gates had obvious utilitarian functions. I quickly read the names of all the gates and started to study what they represented. I soon realized that, as Nehemiah rebuilt the gates he was actually involved in community development! He would end up making a tremendous difference in the life of that once destroyed community. As God calls us to respond to the needs around us, we can use these same principles to help rebuild communities. I knew then that I had my message. I wanted people to see that God used Nehemiah to make a difference in a distraught neighborhood and that He can use us too!

What is Community Development?

For many, the term “community development” is a new concept. You may be wondering, “What is community development? What is a community development corporation? What do they do?”  Carol Wayman, in the NCCED (National Congress For Community Economic Development) 2001 Practitioner’s Guide, wrote a very insightful CDC (Community Development Corporation) Industry Profile.

Community development corporations (CDCs) are non-profit community-based organizations that strategically redevelop economically depressed areas by developing affordable housing, sponsoring community economic development projects, providing vital social services and participating in community organizing efforts. CDCs undertake a range of activities including housing counseling, developing business incubators and tutoring at-risk youth. CDCs are business-oriented and entrepreneurial. They work to improve the lives of people in low-income and minority communities afflicted by disinvestment – undertaking development projects that the traditional for-profit sector shuns. Working to mitigate the risks that are often associated with engaging in developments in distressed areas, CDCs draw private investment into troubled areas. Over the past thirty years, CDCs have emerged as one of the most successful community revitalization models in the country.1

As I read Ms. Wayman’s description of a Community Development Corporation, I have to ask myself, “Where is the Church? Why aren’t we doing these things?” Isn’t there a resounding familiarity between the action she describes and what we read from Isaiah 58 and James 3?

While Community Development offers good sounding solutions, there is a need for much more than architectural designs, empowerment zones, and well-planned communities. Without spiritual and moral foundations, all the best-planned communities in the world will be, as Jesus suggested, “built on sand.” We dare not abdicate our responsibility for the community to the government or secular agencies. We, as the Church, have at our disposal the power of Almighty God; the manpower and the vast resources of the Church and its people. If we step out in faith and obedience, we can make a radical difference. The question is, “Will we?”

I believe as Christians we should be involved in community renewal. If God so loved the world, shouldn’t we? That is why I advocate for Evangelical Community Development. As evangelical Christians, part of the good news that we bring to people is love, mercy, and justice.

Evangelical Community Development

Why do I call it Evangelical? Because I believe in the two strong tenets that I see in Evangelical Christianity. One tenet is about man’s need for salvation and the other is the belief in the resurrection of Christ. Our belief that lasting change comes from believing the Gospel is crucial to the way we work with people. It is through a personal relationship with God and the following of His word that the power of God is unleashed in a person’s life. But without the resurrection, where is the power? Paul the Apostle writes to the Church in Ephesus in Ephesians 1: 18-19:

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know… his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at the right hand in the heavenly realms.

It is the power of God that not only gives us the strength to do the work that He has called us to but it is the source of power for change. His power can change the lives of the people to whom we minister, change the community in which they live and change the world’s patterns of injustice that so often prevail. What separates us from other social agencies? Should it not be the power of the resurrection? We need to cry out to God to use His almighty power, the same power He used to raise Jesus from the dead, to use His power to resurrect broken lives and the communities in which they live.

This is the evangelical message that needs to be the foundation for community development. For too long we have given social aspects of community development the preeminence. Housing, economic development, social work are all vital parts of community development, but I believe that God wants Himself, His power and His principles to be at the core of community renewal. Without spiritual renewal that Christ and the Bible brings, any community development is incomplete.

You And Your Church Can Make A Difference

There has never been a better time to get involved in community development. Municipalities are looking for assistance in the face of an over burgeoning of social issues and shrinking revenue. What if churches would work together in entrepreneurial ways and create results? What if the impact of a sustained evangelical community development project reduced crime, teen pregnancy and lowered the recidivism of people back into the penal system? What if faith-based economic initiatives and mixed-income housing actually did bring back the economy to distraught communities? What if we could rebuild neighborhoods without displacing the poor? What if Churches again became vibrant assets to a community in which it was located? Maybe then not only we but the world, would understand what Jesus meant when He said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may glorify your Father in Heaven.”

The Church can do it. Churches that are concerned about youth, hire youth pastors and organize a youth program. Churches concerned about discipleship, hire a small groups pastor and organize a small group initiative. If we say we care for the poor, disadvantaged, those who are marginal; then why not organize ourselves and maybe even hire a person in charge of helping those in need? Why not take a large portion of the budget and dedicate it toward this ministry? Why not create ministries that allow church members to really get involved? 

The purpose of this blog is to help spur people to action. In the years to come, we are hoping to see thousands of churches in all the major cities in the United States begin to take bold steps in helping turn around distraught neighborhoods. It is time for action. Here are some different areas you can get involved in Hunger; poverty; housing; addictions; homelessness; parenting; neighborhood repair; evangelism; healthcare; elder care; financial assistance; environmental care and conservation; single parenting; and mental health. 

 

 

The Church Can Make a Difference

According to recent 2010 surveys, there are over 190,000 evangelical and conservative Protestant congregations with over 43,000,000 congregants. Add to that, 77,000 mainline Protestant congregations with 22,000,000 congregants. That is 65,000,000 people! That is more than enough people to make a significant difference, but we can’t sit around and think the others will do it. We must act. The question is, will you and your church go outside your comfort zone and work in those communities around you to help those in need with compassion, justice, and the gospel?

We need a mind shift. For too long churches have been trying to be the best church in the community. We have compared ourselves with other churches. But is that the right measuring stick? Is that what God wants? Perhaps there are better metrics. Maybe we should quit striving to be the best church “in” and become, as the author Eric Swanson suggests, the best church “for” the community. You can read about it in his book, The Externally Focused Quest: Becoming the Best Church for the Community. Since he wrote that book, he has even gone further and has said that we should be the best church “with” the community. In his writings, Eric asks a sobering question that we need to consider. He asks, “If your church were to close its doors, would anyone in the community be upset?” It is a serious question and one that we may not like the answer to. But here is the good news. It is not too late! We can still make a difference. We can embrace our mission, to be a true community church and start considering different ways we can be the hands and feet of Jesus right where we worship. We can take on a new mantra, one that says, “Yes, we want to be the best church for and with the community.”

Taken from Ron Ovitt’s book, Five Signs Of A Healthy Christian

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101 Ways -Parents Night Out

It is not easy being a parent. It is the busiest time of your life. What parent could not use some respite? And who better to offer a night out than the local church. This is a great way to mobilize the young people, seniors and adults together to have a fun night for children while parents go out and have an enjoyable evening. Here are some considerations:

Pick a good night – Friday evenings are great. It may be once, every two months, September, November, January, March and May.  Perhaps once a quarter to get you started.

Convenient hours – You want to be open early enough so parents can drop off the children and then not to late so the kids can get to bed. 5:30 – 9:30 is a good format.

Dinner and snacks – The purpose of 5:30 is so most families would have time to bring their children in time for dinner at 6:00. A modest charge of $5.00 per child would cover all the costs and save the parents a lot of money for a sitter and food. A snack time could be at 8:30.  A healthy dinner and snacks, being careful of food allergies, would be welcome by the families.

A lot of fun – Kids have energy so you want to plan great activities. There should be the big three. Age appropriate play time, craft time and story time.

Tell about other events – This is a great way to let families know about other family friendly events at the church. Give them a flyer, brochure or newsletter informing them about other children’s programs, parenting classes, education opportunities, sermon series and other fun events coming up.

Child protection – This is key. Parents want a safe environment for the children. Follow common child protection policies for churches and day care facilities. Adult child ratios, bathroom supervision, background checks, emergency procedures all make for a safe and pleasant time for the children and parents.

Get a team together and start dreaming how you could serve your community with a Parents Night Out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

So What Are You Waiting For?

So what is stopping you and your church from making an impact in your community? Here are a few things you can do that may get the ball rolling.
1. Educate yourself on the issues. Become discerning and wise.
2. Understand what the scriptures have to say about justice, love, mercy, peace.
3. Team with others  – Take what you have learned and share it with others. Get groups studying what you have learned.

Don’t Do It Alone

There is no reason that you have to do good alone. Others can help. Having others help shares the workload and expenses. This way it is not just the burden of one church. The more people the more work is done. If we are going to make a difference, why not make a BIG difference. For the little more work it takes to invite a few churches, friends, neighbors or businesses to work with you the impact can be huge. Remember when you recruit someone you often are recruiting their network. It only takes one person to get their family or place of business involved to change a small project into a large significant impact.

Leverage

Always try to increase the impact. There are many secular groups that are doing good and would love the help of a church with no strings attached. They have the expertise that you need. You have the manpower. It would be great to work together.

Leverage with others income
Donors, sponsors, companies often designate dollars for good charitable work. Again, you have the manpower (especially if you combine other churches with yours) people will be happy to invest where their dollars will go further.

Leverage the government
Inform yourself on issues and vote. When you vote you are instructing the government to work on your behalf. If you are concerned that your vote will not be enough then organize others to vote with you.
Another way is to use Government Grants, and local agencies to help supplement what you are doing. There are many good things that the government would be happy to pay for. They are interested in leveraging their money too.

Be an Advocate
You have a voice, use it. We have a collective voice we can use it as well. Letters, call in on radio, public meetings. If there are situations that need to be fixed then let us use our voice to help advocate for change.

Pray
Prayer is a mighty force. As God’s ambassadors on this earth we are invited to join God in His work. He asks us to come to Him and intercede for those in need.

So start dreaming. What can you and your church do? Who can you get involved with you? God wants to impact the world and He wants to do it through you!

100+ Ways You and Your Church Can Make A Difference

We have lost our birthright. It was sad for Esau it is even sadder for us. Once known as the center of the universe, as the redeemer of culture, the sanctuary for victims, and the hope of the hopeless, today we find the church without significant influence in the world. Instead we have become islands of irrelevance, a sub-culture, a country club for members only.

How did we get in this state? How have we strayed so far from our founder? How did we lose any remove resemblance to Him who read, “I have come to bind the wounds etc.” and then said of Himself “today has this scripture come to pass”

Like any other situation, with God we are not without hope. He is alive and His Spirit still calls us. Even as I write, I am reminded that God always has a remnant. The fact that you are reading this book gives pause for joy. And that is what I pray. I pray that your heart will be full of joy as you read the many different suggestions in this book.

We Can Make A Difference!
There are 0ver 330,000 churches in America with over 118,000,000 people attending. That is 40% of the population. What if we took our role as a disciple of Jesus seriously and decided to go and make a difference in His name? What if, after visiting this blog, you and thousands of others, went back to their church and stirred compassion into action? What a difference we could make. It can happen. Unlike Esau may our God of grace and mercy give us the opportunity to renew our birthright, as His representative of love and compassion in this world.

Getting Started
We are starting with 100+ ideas of Doing Good that you and your church can get involved in. As people share their experiences and we keep adding more hopefully we will have to change this blog to 1000+ Ways To Make A Difference.

So look over some of our suggestions. Brainstorm and come up with a plan for you and your church to get involved in. Go make a difference then come back and share it with us. God has called us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Together, with the Lord’s power, we can make a difference.

He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Eph 2:9