I was encouraged by my district superintendent about a decade ago to get into the community and get to know people. He shared how he made a regular habit of sitting in the local restaurant. He said working on his sermon and drinking coffee helped make some solid contacts, and helped to grow the church he had pastured.
I have tried to follow the advice I was given. I have only been in my current church pastorate, in Clifton Illinois, for eight months. I am seeing some positive results. I try to visit our local café for coffee at least once a week; I attended local sporting events, school concerts, and even attended the community tree lighting ceremony. I have only had the opportunity to speak briefly at a community service jointly put on by the area churches. However, after a mere eight months in this town I can hardly go anywhere with out someone saying hello. I have not seen the benefit of having someone stop in and visit our church, but I am sure that people in this town have seen that I care.
It is the power of community. I think the only way to gain trust with people is to be involved in their lives. Yes, I know many pastors today feel they should remain more separate from the day to day life of the people. I also know that it means risking hurt from those you are trying to reach, and I have been hurt. Jesus was with His followers, and since He is our great example we should at least strive to do the same. I have come to see that I can not minister to people, unless I am truly involved in their lives, and the life of their family.
It isn’t really that hard to take a few minutes to drink a cup of coffee, or to cheer on the local teens in sports. It may not even seem all that important to some. To those we may spend some simple time with; however, it can mean a lot. I have learned for myself that it is vital to be a part of any community I am trying to reach with the hope of Jesus Christ. If people can not see that we care and love them, they will never accept words about Jesus’ love for them.
It’s only time, but the pay off could make an eternal difference.
— Keep on the Journey