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What is your dream for your community?

When I was studying at Spurgeon’s College back in the late 1990s, one of the lecturers posed two critical questions that he believed any sermon or study of Scripture should answer:

 

  1. “So, who is this God?”

  2. “So what?”

 

These two questions in their simplicity, are ingenious, but attempting to answer them caused me many sermon re-writes, as it was all too easy to negate to address them as I crafted messages to engage those of faith and no faith.

 

Adopting a similar theme, I have been reflecting on questions we could ask ourselves as churches, which might give us insights into “what’s God up to in our communities and how we might join in with this?” (This phrase is attributed mainly to the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. It has often been linked to the work of Fresh Expressions, with whom we have a Strategic Partnership.) So, my questions are as follows:

 

  1. Where do you sense God at work in your community?

  2. What signs of the Kingdom of God are you seeing?

  3. In light of questions 1 and 2, what are your hopes and dreams for your community?

 

Allow me to unpack these questions. The first question is about our sense of God working in our community. When you look at where you live/worship, where do you see signs of hope? Where are the signs of people leaking the goodness of God regardless of their faith journey? Since humankind is made in the image of God, is it not possible that humanity simply cannot contain God’s character? Therefore, at times, it leaks out.

 

The temptation to answer this first question is to begin by outlining all we do as a church, assuming that this is where God is working. To some extent, this is correct, but it is not the only place where God operates; anecdotal evidence suggests God is increasingly acting outside of the church today. As a result, addressing the first question by looking outside the church may give us an idea of the places and things we could ‘join in with’ if we haven’t already done so.

 

The second question asks what the indications of God’s Kingdom are, which I define, amongst other things, as seeing justice upheld, the marginalised included, the sick cured, and a thirst for Jesus emerging. Essentially, the things Jesus mentions in the Gospels when he claims the Kingdom is nigh. We can look around our communities and see all of the needs and problems that need to be addressed with absolutely no effort. What if, instead, we looked for all the wonderful things; for evidence of God’s Kingdom values in our community? Perhaps it would lead us to be less critical and more encouraging and upbeat about the future.

 

The third question is my favourite, as it encourages me to think of a future where everyone in my community has accepted Jesus as their Saviour and Lord. I then try to work back from this picture to what changes, developments and new initiatives might be needed to enable this. I tend to dream big, but I don’t think I can ever ‘out-dream’ God. I dream of a time where fairness and equity exist amongst those who live near me, where the elderly don’t have to worry about budgeting for food because they’ve been invited for a meal, a time where we aren’t concerned by higher energy prices because we’ve covered the church in solar panels and are generating free energy for every local home. I dream of a time when ringing the doctor for an appointment is unnecessary because the Holy Spirit has healed people miraculously. I dream of a time when the local churches worship as one because our love for Jesus has increased so much that our differences no longer seem relevant.

 

I’d like to ask everyone in our Network to consider these three questions. Then, when we next ask you to share what is happening in your community, we’ll be inundated with good news stories of the Spirit at work, lives transformed by Jesus, and something that might just look like the Kingdom of God where we live.

 

Simon Mattholie

CEO Rural Ministries


First published in MOSAIC Issue 13, May - August 2024

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