If you are looking for ways to be the church in your community and love others like Jesus, here are some practical suggestions of things you can do. This post is by Sam Riviera who lives out these suggestions in his day-to-day life.
Be the Church by Picking Up Trash
Twice a month our group picks up trash on the streets and in the parks of an inner city neighborhood. We also try to smile and greet everyone who passes. Over the past few years this has resulted in some amazing conversations with people who hate churches and would never dream of attending one.
You’ve already guessed that picking up trash in an inner city neighborhood is not all sweetness and roses. Some of what we pick up is really disgusting. Several mornings I have stood on what appeared to be not quite dry blood, only to read in the afternoon paper that someone had been murdered on that very spot the previous night. On the other hand, there is no place where I feel the presence of Jesus more keenly than out in the street picking up trash.
Be the Church by Cleaning up the Alley
Twice last summer our group cleaned one block sections of alleys. The first one was the dirtiest and most overgrown alley in that inner city neighborhood, and took us several mornings to complete. At the end of the final morning, we shared lunch together and invited the neighbors whose houses backed up to the alley. A few joined us, and a long term relationship was formed with one family.
After the second alley, we decided to return to picking up trash, which is an activity in which more people are able to participate. Trash pickup also tends to engage more of the people who live on the street in conversations. An unintended and unexpected consequence of cleaning alleys was that some of the people who lived along the alleys seemed embarrassed that someone else was cleaning their dirty alley. They closed their blinds and didn’t emerge until we were leaving. Once again, however, we felt the presence of Jesus out there in those dirty alleys.
Be the Church by Painting Over Graffiti
Graffiti is a significant problem in most inner city neighborhoods. After checking with the city, we found that many areas have a group that volunteers to paint over graffiti. However, most groups have very few volunteers and are always on the lookout for people who will help. The job requires old clothes and an hour or two of time. This is also an opportunity to engage people in the neighborhood in conversation as they walk by or when they come out of their homes to say thank you.
Be the Church by Volunteering at the Recreation Department
Our group has helped the recreation department with neighborhood Halloween and Easter parties. Several of the members of our group have served on the department board. Again, these have been excellent opportunities to get to know the people who live in the neighborhood.
We have also cleaned up after street and music festivals, participated in the community dinner, helped the fire station acquire needed equipment, and thanked the center city police department with a visit, thank you cards, and cookies.
Have you tried some of the suggestions above or discovered other ways to be the church in your community? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Be the Church in Your CommunityWant to be the church in your community but don't know? Here are some posts which not only explain what it means to be the church in your community, but also gives concrete, practical examples of what it looks like and how to be the church whatever you do and wherever you go. Remember, you ARE the church, and wherever you go, Jesus goes with you!
- How to Be the Church in Your Community
- The Tribe and the Church
- Church Tribes vs. the Jesus Tribe
- How to Preach the Gospel to your Neighbors
- Being the Church is Loving the Person in Front of You
- 4 Practical Suggestions for Being the Church in your Community
- Love Like Jesus by Listening to People
- Welcome New People to the Community
- Finding Jesus in Denver
- Loving Others at Walmart
Great suggestions. Like the famous saying goes: “preach the gospel and when necessary use words.”
The reformation of men is very commendable, as are all forms of “Social Services”, but that is not the work or mission of the Church.
Read the entire “Getting To Know Your Neighbors” series and the entire “Being the Church in the Community” series. These are not about reforming people (lest it be those of us who follow Jesus) or social services, whatever that term may mean. They are all about learning to love others, “neighbors”, as Jesus commanded
Consider a fellow who falls on hard times, but the church ignores him even though it knows his plight. Whatever does that have to do with the church? Isn’t that the job of the government? – Is that man not our neighbor? Does not Jesus command us to love our neighbor? Then how do we conclude that is not our work, not part of our mission?
The only one who reforms people is Jesus. He clearly tells us to love him and others. Yet we largely ignore his direct commands and clear examples and erect cathedrals so that we may sit in therm, and pass as far away as possible from the poor man on the side of the road.
Lya Alves says
Hi, Jeremy, we can be teh church doing graffiti in places in authorized places. The graffiti can be a good evangelistic tool if not used to vandalize:
I don’t understand Spanish, so couldn’t read the links. The graffiti that we have joined in eradicating is vandalism, done in poor inner city areas, and is quite often an indicator of a crime-ridden neighborhood. Cleaning up trash, graffiti and so on is generally understand as caring about those neighborhoods by the people who live there, and quite often provides opportunity for conversations.
“Who are you and why are you doing this?” (Cleaning trash, graffiti, etc.)
“We’re followers of Jesus, and we’re trying to show the love of Jesus to the neighborhood.”
So far we’ve never had a negative reaction. But we have seen people immediately break into tears. That would include a city councilman who said,”I’ve never seen any church do anything like this in the twenty years I’ve lived in this area. If churches did this, I’d go to church.” Another similar reaction came from a man who said “I’ve lived in the neighborhood for over forty one years and I can say unequivocally that no church has ever cared about us. That says a lot to me.”
We totally understand that most churches are busy with whatever it is they do, but have lost sight of their mission. Their neighbors are totally invisible to them (unless their kids throw a candy bar wrapper on the church lawn, then the church will call the police, a story I wrote about previously).
I would paraphrase Dickens “Humanity IS our business.”
Here in Brazil the grafffiti is considered art. And vandalism is vandalism. Very important to clean the walls of vandalism that was done. But here we have the possibility to show the difference between urban art and vandalism, and can impact people with evangelism. A painting on the wall is a painting on the wall. But if someone approaches and asks What do I’m painting, I speak of Jesus, and the result is beautiful and moving.