CITY REACHING REQUIRES PARADIGM SHIFTS

To transform a city there must be a total Paradigm shift in the way we go about it. I am taking highlights from a paper “Ten Paradigm Shifts” which became part of his book To Transformation a City By Eric Swanson. We in CNT totally agree with his 10 paradigm shifts.

1) From building walls to building bridges. “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13,14). The first paradigm shift pertains to where we, as the church, see ourselves in relation to our communities. Will we remain outside of the community inviting people in or will we go to our communities, seeking to be a transforming agent? The church is called to be separate in lifestyle but never called to be isolated from the people it seeks to influence.

2) From measuring attendance to measuring impact. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast…mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough” (Matthew 13:33). In a post-modern world most people are neither impressed with the size of a church or its commitment to “truth.”  In this century, the greatest apologetic for the reality of Jesus Christ living in a community will be observational more than propositional. To have a faith that can be observed is to be living out the truths we want others to grasp and the life of the Savior we want them to know.

3) From encouraging the saints to attend the service to equipping the saints for works of service. “It is (God) who gave some to be…pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service…” (Ephesians 4:11,12) In the typical church, lay people are asked to serve in several: capacities ie; Teach a Sunday School class, Work in the nursery, lead a home Bible study or small group, or  Sing in the choir

Little wonder pastors lament that only 20% of their members are “active. Could it be that the service opportunities are not broad enough to engage the energies and passions of people in the church?  Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City writes that the process of mobilizing members into ministers “starts by articulating clearly and regularly a theology of ‘every-member ministry’…

4) From “serve us” to service—from inward to outward focus. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give…” (Mark 10:45).  The church is irrelevant to most people. Take away service and you take away the church’s power, influence, and evangelistic effectiveness. The power of the gospel is combining the life-changing message with selfless service.

Erwin McManus of Mosaic Church in East Los Angeles says that the single biggest factor in his church retaining people is not personal follow-up or joining a small group; it is being involved from the very beginning in service to others in the community. When members have told him that they want the church to meet their needs his reply is “You ARE the church and together we are called to meet the needs of the world.”  We grow and are healed as we serve others.

5) From duplication of human services and ministries to partnering with existing services and ministries. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). Nearly every community has a number of human service agencies that are morally positive and spiritually neutral that are doing their best to meet the needs of the underserved and under-resourced people of the community. Rather than starting a new ministry, why not form partnerships with existing groups as “partner ministries” of a local congregation?

6) From fellowship to functional unity. There is a strong case to suggest that there is really only one church in a city or community (made up of all believers) that meets in several congregations around the city. In Philippians 2:2 Paul implored, “…make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Only unity of purpose around the vision of a transformed community is strong enough to unite pastors and churches of different denominations. Uniting the church around a common goal is preferable to trying to unite the church around a cooperative project.  It works because we love each other, we trust each other and we hold each other accountable,” says Fresno pastor Paul Binyon.

7) From condemning the city to blessing the city and praying for it. Jeremiah 29 begins by saying; “This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem…to those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” What follows are instructions on how to live as aliens in a foreign land. Listen to his admonition: “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (v. 7)

For too long we as the church have positioned ourselves as adversaries to our communities. Maybe it is time we began blessing the city by blessing those who have given themselves to the city! Perhaps the next great reconciliation movement will be between the church and the community.

8) From being a minister in a congregation to being a minister in a parish.As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it…” (Luke 19:41). A congregation is made up of people who attend a local church from a community. The minister typically feels that this congregation is his flock whom he must baptize, marry and bury. They consume his time and energy. Being in a parish is different. A parish differs from a congregation in that it is a geographical scope of concern and responsibility.  Being in a parish gives one the God-given right to minister to anyone in the community, whether they are part of one’s congregation or not. Urban theologian,

9) From anecdote and speculation to valid information. Two pieces of information changed the course of Nehemiah’s life that resulted in the transformation of a community. In Nehemiah 1, His burden to transform the city came from accurate information. We too need correct information about the real needs of our community as well as the resources we have to meet these needs.

10) From teacher to learner.Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…” (James 1:19). It is interesting to note that for the historic African-American churches, the concept of holistic ministry is not a new concept. They have never suffered from trying to split effective evangelism from social justice or meeting the needs of those around them. It’s how they’ve always done church.

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