“I can’t even think about going to church. I have so many issues! They wouldn’t want me there”
“Church is for people who have it together. I wouldn’t fit in.”
“I don’t think God really likes me, otherwise I wouldn’t be struggling so much.”
Jesus came to save lives. That’s what he said. He backed it up by actually doing it. In his day to day ministry Jesus taught about God’s kingdom, fed the hungry, healed the sick, delivered the oppressed, forgave sins and even raised the dead. In doing this Jesus met people at their need.
Jesus didn’t have to make up a strategy to reach people. He just helped them as he went along in his day. Opportunities presented themselves and he and the disciples acted accordingly. He was just following the direction of the Father and relying on the enablement of the Holy Spirit as he went.
An observations on this is that Jesus didn’t answer questions that no one was asking nor offer help that no one needed. He responded to the issues people around him were concerned about and used that as a way to point to God’s kingdom and his work as the Son of God.
With this said, let’s look at our area of ministry, which is Fairburn Baptist Association (FBA). We are in parts of Fulton, Fayette and Coweta Counties. This is a diverse demographic with inner city, urban, suburban and town and country settings.
So, in our area, what are people asking and what help are they needing?” For our area, I have a couple of good ideas on what the population is concerned about. These are issues that, like Jesus we can do something about in his name. I’ll give a little background.
In September of 2021 I sent a community ministry survey to over 600 members of our 38 churches in FBA. I asked 11 questions ranging from what they thought were top needs in their community to what their church was doing in community ministry to share the Gospel and make followers of Jesus. The responses to the survey were telling.
In all of the questions which pertain to perceived needs, two issues appeared in every one. These two were the predominant response themes. What were the two?
Children and Education
Surprised? I was.
However, I would have put children’s education in a list of top ten. For years reading scores have been going down. As many know, the Department of Corrections makes recommendations on the amount of future prison space based on the present reading scores of 3rd graders. It’s a tried and true formula. If you don’t first gain the ability to read well; second, you won’t comprehend and learn. Illiteracy and lack of comprehension is a formula for societal failure. Never mind they won’t be able to read the Bible.
I could go on and on about this ticking time bomb, but I don’t need to. You can read the handwriting on the wall. You can think this through and see where it is going. The problem is that it will likely be worse than you imagine. That is why we need to take action and do it together. It is a problem that is bigger than one person or church can handle.
Second was the issue of mental health I admit took me completely by surprise and yet, there it was, in every answer to every question I posed. It was more empathic than the children’s education. Perhaps because this one affects the first.
There is, if you will, a type of mental pandemic spreading: Anxiety, fear, anger, depression, conflict, miscommunication, burnout, and hopelessness. Perhaps these issues have always been there and even growing, but with the pandemic I think it put them on steroids. Combine the pandemic with all the public political rhetoric, conflicting communications and you can see why so many are fearful and distrustful of authority. You can see why there is a shortage of fortitude and resilience among people today, even church people.
The people of God need to be people of hope. We are the only people on earth that have the real hope of heaven here and now. When people think of you and your church, wouldn’t it be great if they thought of hope? Wouldn’t it be great if they thought of faith and love as well?
We have lost our way, but we can get back. Jesus came incarnate at just the right time and he did just the right things. We, as the body of Christ, have our time and it is now. The way back is the way forward. It is moving forward together.
So here is the proposal:
In 2022, Fairburn Baptist Association has scheduled five interest events that deal directly with both of these issues and the consequences of them. These are opportunities for evangelism and discipleship by answering questions people are asking and meeting needs people are expressing.
I will be sending out information on all five in the next few days. To take part you will need to register for the interest meetings. Pray about it. Ask Jesus if he wants you to go to any of these. Sign up for our newsletter below. I’m not going to junk up your mailbox. Neither of us have time for that.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16, CSV)