Do you want to make a difference in your community but you’re not sure how to get started? Here are three actions each pastor and church needs to take in order to identify those around you who need Christ. If you and your church will take these actions, you will discover pockets of people who are more than ready to be reached with the Gospel message.
IDENTIFY PEOPLE GROUPS
Take the needed time to do some research in order to find out the various people groups represented in your city (the U.S. Census Bureau is a good place to start). In our own research, we discovered that even in our small Northwest Arkansas region of 400,000 plus people, we have 66 people groups, plus the largest group, which is what I call the big white cluster that comprises 75% of the Northwest Arkansas region. Additionally, we discovered that our region has the largest gathering of Marshallese people outside of their native Marshall Islands.
What God has done through this discovery is remarkable . . . a testimony to the power of God for the glory of God! We put that research to work and God is doing amazing things among the Marshallese people in our community. We were able to plant the first Marshallese Southern Baptist Church in North America. Additionally, the “Jesus Film” was recently redubbed here in Northwest Arkansas for release in the Marshall Islands and to our Marshallese community.
This story reminds me of one thing: God is committed to reaching the people groups of the world. This is why we must discover the people groups in the region we serve and are called by God to reach with the Gospel!
IDENTIFY CULTURAL CLUSTERS
Look for pockets of people who have come together because of the identifying culture they share. For instance, in Northwest Arkansas two of the largest cultural clusters are the (i) cowboy and (ii) business, sub-cultures. Knowing this, we have launched three cowboy churches in the region and 11 years ago we launched a business luncheon that reaches hundreds of people weekly. This luncheon is not a Bible study, but a place for people to be empowered to make the climb in the business community. We teach leadership, motivation, and so much more.
When we identify the unique cultural clusters of the regions we serve and are called to reach with the Gospel, we are able to advance and impact our regions. Every region has unique cultural clusters!
What kinds of cultural clusters can be found in your community? Begin looking around. Observe the people around you and the types of community events held in your area. I’m sure you will identify many clusters of people to share Jesus with.
IDENTIFY COMMUNITY DISTINCTIONS
Dig deeper within the subcultures around you to find what specifically makes them unique to your community. Here are a couple of examples from my community in Northwest Arkansas. Many of the business professionals who attend our business luncheon are vendors to Wal-mart, which is headquartered near our Pinnacle Hills campus. Another community distinctive for us is the University of Arkansas, located near our two Fayetteville campuses. We have more I could share about, but these are just examples of the unique distinctions that you will find in your community.
If we ignore the reality of Vendor-ville and the Razorback Nation, we will not understand our region and be able to reach it with the Gospel. You cannot disregard realities around you and effectively reach people. You must understand the audience you are trying to reach for Christ.
A Few Final Words
Pastor, lead the church you serve to take these three actions I have shared with you today. These actions will make you better and more effective! Additionally, do them annually. Yes, your community changes and it does continually. Through taking these three actions, you will learn who the people are in your region.
The more you learn about them, your probability of reaching them increases.
Yours for the Great Commission,
Many people in this day and age expect churches to be full service discipleship centers. From the moment a child is signed into Sunday morning childcare until the time they graduate from high school an expectation of church discipleship exists.
Some parents may never have a meaningful prayer time or discussion of spiritual things with their children, yet still expect fully formed followers of Christ at age 18. Why? Because the children and their student pastor are supposed to be having these discussions. The parents feed the kids and make sure they are educated. The church leaders are responsible for discipleship.
This seems to be a common line of thinking even if unspoken.
To be sure, the Bible does teach believers to help guide one another in walking with God. The process of teaching prayer, Bible study, evangelism, fasting, and other spiritual disciplines to believers is usually called discipleship. The word derives from the word for learner.
Whose responsibility, then, is the discipleship of children? Primarily it is the responsibility of the parents.
Think about that early Jewish Scripture, Deuteronomy 6:7, which reads, “Repeat [these words] to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
Ephesians 5 makes it clear that parents are to raise their children in the “nurture and teaching of the Lord” (v. 18). Nowhere is this responsibility delegated to any other spiritual leader. This is not to say pastors, elders, or teachers have no role, but the primary responsibility of spiritual guidance in a child’s life belongs to the parents.
One of the exciting things about Bible Studies for Life is how it aids parents in this task.
In many churches, the adults are studying one thing in small groups, their teen aged students study something else, and their elementary aged children still something else. Everyone is studying different concepts, making conversation between parents and children difficult to navigate.
Bible Studies for Life helps parents initiate spiritual conversations with their kids through a tool called “One Conversation.” Imagine moms and dads knowing exactly what their family members are studying in the Bible each week, and knowing how to start a conversation with their kids about life and truth. Even more, if moms and dads use Bible Studies for Life in their small groups, then the whole family actually studies the same biblical concepts each week
Think about the benefits to this: the entire family can engage in one conversation, group leaders can be assured they are not solely responsible for spiritual growth, pastors are confident the families of the church are learning together, and children are discipled by their parents while learning the pattern they need to successfully disciple as parents.
Needless to say this will take a new way of thinking for many parents, but while the whole concept of parental discipleship of children will be new for many, the joys are amazing and eternal.