Your church has a reputation. It could be good. It could be bad. But someone, somewhere is talking about you. People who have left your church or people who have visited have talked about your church But, the church world isn’t the only place people are talking about your church. Your community has an opinion about you as well. The public, your neighbors, nearby businesses, and your city leaders could be talking about you.
I admit I had never really thought about how our city thought about us until I read this excellent post by Pastor Scott Wilson, Pastor of the Oaks Fellowship in the Dallas area. He tells the story of the day the mayor came to him and said,
“Pastor Scott, there’s a problem . . . a big problem.” I responded immediately, “What do you mean? Tell me what it is.” Without hesitating, he said, “You and your church have a bad reputation in our community.” …He explained, “You’re the biggest church, and in fact, the biggest organization in our community, but you have the reputation for doing your own thing. You’re not really part of our community at all.” (for the full article click HERE)
Scott Wilson realized that although his church was doing a lot FOR the people in the community, they were not doing anything WITH the community. Scott had no idea his community was talking about him. But behind the doors of the city he lived in people were talking about him. And not in a good way. The mayor of the city did not see Scott’s church as a blessing at all. He saw them as competing with what the city was trying to do. Scott had no idea. You don’t either.
For the past few years I have been moving our church toward partnering with our community. We believe that our church should add value to our community by being involved with what the community is already doing. We parter with the city to participate in city events like festivals and parades. We partner with neighborhoods doing block parties. We partner with a local basic needs agency with support and volunteerism.
The mayor has heard me pray for him by name 3 times as I led prayer at the city council meeting. The Police department has called on our church to help organize their back to school event. The manager of a local apartment complex tells us she knows she can count on us. The leader of the local PTA can text me when they need help. Through serving on the board of our local benevolence agency, people in our community have seen me at events and heard me speak on behalf of this community agency. Through these partnerships, we have been able to rub shoulders with people in our community. They know us. We know them. No longer will those in influence in our city have to wonder about our church. They know who we are and what we care about. And it is making a difference.
Your city is talking about you. I have heard them as I have been getting more involved in our community and meeting our city’s influencers. They talk to me about the other churches in our city. They ask me questions about these churches. Here are some of the questions influential leaders in my city have asked me:
“Why don’t more churches help us try to help people in our city?”
“Why won’t that ( LOCALLY KNOWN CHURCH) help us with our event? Why are they competing with us?”
“Why do churches only help if they can be in control?”
“We can’t count on that church, they only want to do their own thing.”
You may not know it, but important people are talking about you. So is the public. Do you know what they are saying? Do you know how they feel about you? Do they see you as a help or a hinderance? Do they know you care about the city or do they think you care only about your church? If you have any hope of impacting your community, you must begin by showing your city you are there for them. Find out what is happening in your community. Get involved. Partner with your city to make a difference.
For more on this idea of community partnering, I recommend The Eternally Focused Quest by Rick Rusaw & Eric Swanson. Another good book on this is Love Without Walls by Lorie Beshore from Mariners Church.