Learning to live in proximity to your community
Strategies for change
By Michael Henderson, Mission Leadership Development
Tasmanian Baptists continue to share a desire for our churches to embrace the key strategies of RE-ENGAGE, RE-IMAGINE and RE-ALIGN.
We believe this is the best way for us to realise the social change God desires in Tasmania. The work Jenna Blackwell and I do with churches is focused on assisting Baptist churches to realise this vision.
Applying the Basics
Taking steps to reengage, reimagine and realign can sound complicated, risky and mysterious. However, the basics always apply. And the basics for us are to love our God who loves us; love our neighbours as God loves us; and go into all the world to help people to understand the first two. From this base, it is possible to achieve the rest.
Taking steps to reengage, reimagine and realign can sound complicated, risky and mysterious.
Because here is the thing: when saying re-imagine, it is not speaking about ideas. Instead, it is re-imagining people, relationships and the communities our churches are immersed in. It is not about innovating products, or ideas, or programs. On the contrary, we, like God, are focused on people, communities, and ultimately the social change that happens from this.
Trust is Key
One of my guiding principles at the moment comes from a quote by the Rev. Jennifer Bailey: “Relationships are built at the speed of trust, and social change happens at the speed of relationships.” That is, without trust there are no healthy relationships. And without healthy relationships, there will be no social change.
“Relationships are built at the speed of trust, and social change happens at the speed of relationships.”Rev Jennifer Bailey
In my experience, people often want to jump over re-imaging trust and relationships and pursue the re-imaging of social change. But, if you do not start with trust, there will be no lasting social change.
So, how do we re-imagine trust-building and relationships? It starts with getting close to people.
This sounds simple, but with re-imagining, and a desire to create new things, it is possible to lose sight of people. They can disappear into the group of “people out there”. That is, people you have heard about but don’t know personally; people we have seen on television or YouTube but have never met.
Moving Into the Neighbourhood
Here is another quote I love, from Bryan Stevenson, “People are hard to hate up close, so move in. People are easy to notice and understand and build trust with up close, so move in.”
With people close by, you notice when you have built trust. And when you have broken it, you notice relationships go missing.
“People are hard to hate up close, so move in. People are easy to notice and understand and build trust with up close, so move in.”Bryan Stevenson
What does it mean to move in?
Find ways to be vulnerable with people:
- To be authentic and consistent, being the same person in all relationships.
- To be accountable to people.
- Do this over time, and you build trust and relationships.
- Do this as a church with the community around you and you build trust and relationship with your community.
This might be what re-imagine means for you as a church, and for you as a follower of Jesus.
But, it all has to start with trust. You can achieve lasting social change through trusting that God loves you; trusting your neighbour in relationship; and trusting that God can empower you to go into all the world and make disciples (which includes the house next door!)
If you would like to discuss how your church can achieve lasting social change, then please send me an email! firstname.lastname@example.org
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