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January 11, 2013, 12:00 AM

I See a Building, but Where is the Church?


For a long time, I have noticed the abundance of church buildings in many communities across the United States.  This is particularly true in the inner-city, urban areas, where you may find a church building on almost every corner.  Sadly, in many of the communities surrounding these church buildings, there is an over-abundance of despair and community disintegration that has been caused by poverty, crime, drug infestation, and family dysfunctionality.  These social ills, however, are merely the symptoms of a deeper spiritual reality.   Poverty, for example, is often caused by economically unjust policies in which the poor are exploited by some industrialists and big banks.  It may also be caused by persons who take no personal responsibility to prepare themselves to be functional and productive members of society.  In short, whether we have been "infected with [sin] or affected by it", as Dr. Donald Porter, former Assistant Pastor of Mt. Bethel Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, once recalled, "sin is the cause of it all"! 

In my view, that is one of the reasons the church must not simply have a building in the community.  The Church must be in the community! The church (the baptized, body of Christian believers both individually and corporately) are called to "Go and make . . .not "Come and see" (Matthew 28:19-20).  Although the commandment of Christ extends to "wherever" we go or "as we are going", it certainly implies our immediate and surrounding communities.  Jesus' disciples are called to be "salt and light" in the world (Matthew 5:13-14).   In declaring this truth concerning His disciples, our Lord Jesus Christ revealed the Christians' responsibility to function as an agent of influence and change.  "Salt" must come into contact with "decay" (sin) and hinder it.  "Light" must come into contact "darkness" (sin) and dispel it!  The church must not only have a building in the community; the church should be in the community.

By "being in the community" I mean the Church's members should get out the building, intentionally move throughout the neighborhoods in the immediate and surrounding communities and establish relationships with the members of the community.  Through these relationships, we can then begin to address the individual's need for a personal, vibrant, and authentic saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Moreover, we can use our influence to begin to directly address the root causes of the social ills in our community and, thereby, facilitate the amelioration of these ills.

We must not allow ourselves to be cloistered behind hallowed walls or segregated within stained-glass ghettos, without any positive and transformative contact with the world around. If so, congregations risk becoming increasingly irrelevant. This is not reflective of the Great Commission that tells us to "Go" or the Great Commandment that tells us to "Love"! 

A church building in the community is no good without the Church in the community! 

J. Symonette



Comments

02-16-2013 at 12:18 PM
Servant Daphne
This I have noticed all my life as a native in this area. I have always been concerned by so many churches within the communities, and still there is so much poverty and despair. I do feel the faith based groups have a responsibility to the community in which it resides. They need to construct spiritual veins that connect one church to the other, and develop life skills with a Christian-Educational approach for individuals and families that they serve inside and out the Church Building.
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