Understand Your Present Reality
In Renovate or Die: Ten Ways to Focus Your Church on Mission, Bob Farr begins chapter two of his book with a quotation from a friend of his, Dave Cummings, that was directed at church-planters: "If you ignore the Adam Hamiltons and the Bill Hybels of the world, you do so at your peril. If you copy the Adam Hamiltons and Bill Hybels of the world, you do so at your peril. What you must do is soak up all you can from these types of leaders and then mix in your own sauce" (p. 24).
The reason we refer to each congregation as a local church is because every church must know and understand its context in order to connect with that context. Pastors and individual congregations need to know three things in order to be in effective ministry to their community: 1) demographic data, 2) historical information about the church and it geographical area, and 3) what Farr calls "walk-around information." On this last one, Farr writes,
I drove around the area, Sometimes I drove the school bus route or I rode or walked with the postal carrier. I would talk to the school principal, postmaster, chief of police, and fire chief. I would sit in the local cafes and listen to the conversation. I'd find the local hangouts and then I'd go hang out there. The laundromat is a great place to meet people who most often are not in our churches. I might also hang out in the local garage, Internet cafe, or whatever it took to get a sense of the community. I wanted all this information in my head and heart before I started to think and pray through what God needed to happen through this local church (p. 26).
Farr states that it is imperative to immerse oneself in the mission field where one is appointed, which is exactly what any missionary would do in Africa or Asia or elsewhere. The task is no different in Ohio or Oklahoma.
The dilemma for the pastor, however, is that some parishioners will not see this kind of activity on the part of the pastor as important to the church's mission in the community, but rather a waste of time which the pastor could use to visit shut-ins and patients in the hospitals. But to continue to work off the old and unbiblical model of the pastor being in ministry for the church simply does not work and will hasten the decline and demise of the individual congregation. Congregational care is very important, but that is a task to be done by the saints for the saints. The pastor equips for ministry, the parishioners do the ministry.
And the pastor cannot equip the saints for ministry in the surrounding community if the pastor is unable to take the time to get to know the mission field in which the church finds itself.
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