Churches that fit their community

Archie Poulos

Church By the Bridge at Kirribilli recently ran an Art competition for depictions of the suburb. They offered a $1000 prize to the winner. It was a huge success at raising the profile of the church and engaging with the local community.

That made me wonder about how should a church fit into a community. After all, our efforts in Connect 09 revolve around contacting our community.

Gary Bully is a denominational church planting theorist from the USA.

Martin Morgan gave me one of his papers called "Developing a Contextualized Church Planting Strategy". In it he says there are four possible relationships between a church and the community, two corporate and two personal. They are:

1. The church as the centre of community life
2. The church as part of the community
3. Church people loved as an important part of the community
4. Church people not really noticed in the community

My thoughts on this are that the first two are not necessarily alternatives to the second two; they may feed each other. A much more important reality however would be that God is at the centre of the community. Bully is insightful though, because he helps us to see that people identified as Christians, and Christians as a group being known and appreciated is very helpful as we work toward God being the centre of our community.

So a couple of questions come to mind about my congregation. They are:

1. How do I perceive my place in the community?
2. How do I perceive the church’s place in the community
3. How does my community perceive my place in it?
4. How does my community perceive the place of our church?

The difference between the answers to questions 1 and 2 compared to questions 3 and 4 will keep us honest. I have found Peter Bolt's Mission Minded book a great help in thinking through how to better place ourselves and our church in the community.