What does Jesus want churches to do?: He wants them to make impact for the Kingdom of God. Here is a story from a mission partnership in Argentina where I had an experience that got me thinking differently about the way Jesus sees the Kingdom active in the world. Jesus preached most often about the Kingdom and its living and present reality.
(From Claiming the Corner):
"A Snapshot of a Kingdom Impact church in Azul, Argentina. It was April in the Southern Hemisphere. A former congregation I served had sought out a new kind of global mission partnership that was just becoming popular at the time: a church-to-church partnership supporting a local mission project. It did not mean just becoming a financial partner, giving money through a larger mission organization to fund many projects around the world. Instead, this meant a congregation-to-congregation partnership, one church in the global south and one in the global north. From the congregation in the global south came the idea and the leadership to meet the needs of their community. They did the research; they provided the drive and the model. From the congregation in the global north came the financial backing and the moral and spiritual support to keep the mission going. Cementing this relationship was the vital first mission visit, from the north to the south, congregational members serving under the leadership of the southern church, working shoulder to shoulder with them and understanding the context of the mission to which they were contributing –– now adding their hands and feet to the work. When first envisioned decades ago, the model was termed “accompaniment”. So, there I was in Azul, Argentina, meeting some of the most beautiful people I had ever encountered, the 14 members of Iglesia Luterana de la Tranfiguraciόn, (Transfiguration Lutheran Church)...
One April afternoon, I took a walk from the newly built childcare center into the community it served. As I walked, simple, but well-built concrete homes gradually became drafty dwellings and shacks made with whatever materials people could find. As I went deeper into the community, the power lines vanished, and a few open wells appeared. Cars were replaced by horses and goats. It was like travelling back in time. As I journeyed, the mysterious and energizing presence of the Holy Spirit drew near. Here is what I had been thinking: “It must be hard to live this way.” I felt guilty as I pictured my condo back home, the luxuries I enjoyed daily, the abundance of food, clean and safe surroundings. But suddenly this thought came to my mind: It is on streets like this that Jesus probably spends most of his time.This thought stopped me in my tracks, and it changed my view of global mission. The Christian experience I knew back in the States was abnormal from God’s perspective. God sees wealthy and compartmentalized Christianity for what it is, so conveniently separated from the realities of most of the world, even from the realities of most Christian believers. Here I was for those 10 days, a welcome participant in a local congregation of 14 people making a shockingly outsized impact for the Kingdom of God. They were 14 people changing the lives of 60 families right in their own backyard! It was the first time I had caught a glimpse of the church Jesus referred to at Caesarea Philippi when he said in Matthew 16:18, “The gates of hell will not prevail against it.” For the first time, I saw that church clearly in the mission of “La Transfiguraciόn” to their community. Their first thought was not, “How do we grow our own church? They did not invest in an evangelism outreach program or subscribe to a marketing service to grow their internal numbers. Instead, they simply moved to impact the world that was right outside their door. The name of their congregation fit perfectly with what they were trying to do. They were making a “transfiguration”. Meanwhile, back home, my mid-sized congregation of 1500 was trying to figure out how the other churches in town were pushing 2500 and how we could imitate what they were doing to also get there. The contrast between these two mindsets and worldviews set me back on my heels."
1. What is your reaction to this story? 2. Have you watched your congregation fuss more over creating growth in membership rather than planning for an evaluating Kingdom Impact?3. How has the pressure of "church growth" models, and our culture of "bigger is better" held your church back from what might be Jesus' style of impact?