As you may know, the staff and Council here at New Life Church have put a lot of energy into learning how to work together. Ministries fitting into teams, team leaders connecting with team members in a new way. The first of our four priorities right now is to discover how we can all fit together. You can read more about that right here.
But what’s really the point of that? On the one hand, it’s impressive to have a neatly-organized ministry where every program fits snugly into the overall effort. But surely there must be more to being church than simply being orderly, right? I’ve come to realize that the value in working together is that we can accomplish far more. If we can learn to come together around our various tables to dream, plan and work together we will be able to undertake challenges that we might never even dared dream of in the past.
Such as…? Let me share with you a few ideas that I noticed popping up around here.
A surprising number of people in our community struggle to deal with (or to avoid) homelessness. As a church we have been personally involved in helping a number of individuals or families in this way in the past several years. On the one hand, our desire is simply to help these individuals find an alternative to sleeping outdoors or in their cars. But what we really want is to help address the needs that led to the homelessness. Most of the time a person facing homelessness is in that position because of another struggle that has already happened: a divorce, a medical crisis, a substance abuse problem, for example. Our Each Life Matters (benevolence) ministry talks a lot about “healthy independence”. I dream of the day when our Missional Team can negotiate low-cost housing with area landlords, provide financial guidance through our Crown Ministries, active discipleship through CheckPoints and our Family Ministries, and other support through our Food Pantry and Car Ministry. I can imagine us partnering with local businesses who might want to help underwrite the costs of these ministries in exchange for getting their name out or for having first access to recent graduates of a job-skills course that is included in our program. But to do that, a lot of us would need to work together.
“Going Public” with our Ministries
Here’s another one. What would it look like if it became normal for a certain percentage of each ministry’s participants were not (yet) part of our church family? In other words, what if ministries like CheckPoints or Kingdom Kids or Coffee Break were less and less for us and more and more for others in our community? We would probably need change some of our ways of doing these ministries for this to happen—but think how exciting it would be to know that the reach of our programs extended far beyond our weekend services?
New Life Church was launched because another church in Orland Park had a vision for reaching people in the New Lenox area. When will we return the favor? Imagine if we had a specific plan laying out the steps toward preparing to plant our first daughter church someday. Or imagine if we began opening low-cost “satellite” locations in communities where we could reach people in a more personal way? For instance, think how many of our people live in the Manhattan area. What if we created a venue that could reach them directly?
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So–will we actually do each of these things? Not necessarily. They are dreams, not plans. Besides, each of these dreams are clearly out of our reach at this point. On the other hand, I believe that each of these–or other similar possibilities–could become a reality in the near future if we can learn to work together in a much more intentional way.
In the Old Testament Genesis 11 tells the story we know as The Tower of Babel. The story is intriguing: in their pride God’s people had begun to build a tower that could reach all the way to heaven. To thwart their silliness, God stopped them by a very simple means: he confused their speech. All of the sudden they found that they could no longer understand each other. Without dialogue they couldn’t cooperate. Without cooperation they couldn’t accomplish anything. Progress on that tower ground to a halt, even though everyone probably still wanted to see it completed.
I see God drawing us together, prompting us to develop the shared conversations that will let us dream together, plan together and serve together.