Teaching at the “Just Church” workshop during the Do Justice Conference, Pastor David Myles, of New Hope Church and Christopher Brooks, of MERGE Twin Cities spoke on the Biblical foundations for being a church for all peoples. How we can be committed to fulfilling the Great Commission while also leading change in places of need, where the Lord has called us.
…it’s all for the glory of God. We are all made in the image of God and as image barriers we have a responsibility for justice, but sin gets in the way. Myles opened with the Biblical Mandate of why we are doing this for all people and Brooks finished with specific strategies for realizing this mandate.
Regarding the biblical mandate, David started by asking “Why do we do this? Why Just Church?” And then by answering, “Ultimately it’s all for the glory of God. We are all made in the image of God and as image barriers we have a responsibility for justice, but sin gets in the way.”
We unfortunately see separateness among the people but Jesus preached the universality of his salvation. We are called to preach salvation for all peoples as illustrated in Paul’s letters on bringing the circumcised and uncircumcised together as one body (i.e., bringing together the Jew and the Gentile).
Here are just two of the many Biblical passages that Dave referenced:
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 2 Corinthian 5:14-15
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:11-13
With this Biblical basis, Chris continued the presentation speaking to three practical strategies to live out this mandate.
Strategy One – Build Your Self Awareness.
Know your history and personal baggage which forms your identity. Beyond just knowing your history, do the analysis to know your strengths and weaknesses. This might include Myers-Briggs, DISC, Strength Finder, etc. to figure yourself out.
“Your back story matters.” Ultimately, you need to know yourself to be an authentic leader and apply your skills most effectively in a diverse community.
Strategy Two – Build Your Jerusalem Awareness
Chris asks “How do you define your church through an Acts 1:8 framework?”
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8
Chris points out that many churches are very, very good at “ends of the earth” (e.g., missions) and even “Judea and Samaria” (e.g., national campaigns and filling stadiums), but their Jerusalem plans are often defined far too locally (i.e., around their immediate community). As a result of this, the broader local community (e.g., greater Minneapolis) is not adequately addressed. Chris asks “So how do you see your city?”
Consider the learning from HBR’s “Competitive Advantage of the Inner City” by Michael Porter:
- What are the unique differentiators of the broader community and the immediate local community?
- How can you leverage and nurture those advantages?
- Where should we focus locally? Populations are changing. We are getting blacker and browner.
- How does that inform your church’s engagement strategy?
Checkout Washington Post’s 4 Maps that show how demographic change will touch every corner of country
At a local level “there is a great opportunity” with shifting demographics particularly in the greater Minneapolis area.
…we can be Biblically just by continuing our traditional mission of proclamation evangelism while also advancing Biblical justice. We can do this by not making them two separate things, but instead making them two sides of the same coin.When we focus on small communities, we see huge variations in opportunities and problems in communities right next door to each other. How do we define our Jerusalem? Does it include these communities? Use the data we have to figure out where to focus? Figure out how your church can authentically engage with the communities in need.
Finally as a part of engaging a diverse community, educate yourself about these communities. Understand their language and needs. Be careful of assuming too much based on your own (potentially narrow) experience.
Strategy Three – Be Biblically Just
In closing Chris asked does your church mission include statements about justice? Does the church educate folks about people’s struggles for justice? How is the congregation connected to these community needs regularly?
Ultimately Chris states, we can be Biblically just by continuing our traditional mission of proclamation evangelism while also advancing Biblical justice. We can do this by not making them two separate things, but instead making them two sides of the same coin. More practically, continue to preach God’s love while also helping others in the name of Jesus.
Chris asks, “Consider the meaning of Acts 2:42-47”
“They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need” Acts 2:45
How does this get practically applied by your church in communities of local need?
Thank you to Kevin Benner, a Do Justice Conference volunteer, for writing this article.