I've been thinking a bit about mission lately - not just because it's what I eat, sleep, and breathe these days, but because it was the focus of my district's recent Bishop's Day and because of the upcoming Change the World weekend sponsored by my denomination.
I've decided I don't like the phrase "reaching out into our communities." It implies that there is a central location that we are reaching out into (namely, the four walls of a church building). It implies that there are people who are "in here" and "out there" and the only reason we "in here" are reaching "out there" is to bring those "out there" "in here." It implies that the church really isn't that connected to the community if we have to designate a special time that is set apart to do our good deed for the week.
Now, I know that these things aren't intended, and that there are many, many churches out there who use this language because it does help them engage with their communities more fully and that's great. But for me, the language still falls short of really communicating what we as the hands and feet of Christ in this world are supposed to do and be for our neighbors.
As is usually the case, I was musing about this in the shower. I was thinking of the ways different people in the room during the bishop's day were suggesting they interact with places like the library or the police station or neighborhood parks...lifting up activities like reading weekly to children or throwing a spontaneous block party -- all fantastic ways to engage with your local community. And I thought...these activities aren't really about "reaching out" but about "living in" - living more fully in your community.
I believe that part of what it means to follow Jesus, is to live more fully in your community, acting as a follower of Jesus would act. It means finding ways to bless others while you do the activities that would normally interest you. You don't need a special outreach to read to kids in the neighborhood, and you don't need a special outreach to pick up trash or to give clothes to a person in need. All you need are the eyes to see what's going on around you - ways that God is already working in your community to bring about life and joy...and jump on in to be a part of it. It doesn't take a church committee to authorize people to go out anywhere...all it takes is people willing to make a deeper commitment to God to live in their community as Jesus would want them to live.
So I propose a language change - how can you live in your community more fully?