“Seek (inquire for, care for, demand) the peace and welfare of the city to which I have caused you to be carried away captive; and pray to the Lord for it, for in the welfare (completeness, wholeness, contentment, well-being) of the city in which you live you will have welfare.”
Jeremiah 29:7 was the text we studied a couple of weeks ago as a staff at the 2014 CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) conference in North Carolina. We had a GREAT week laughing, singing, learning, driving (a lot) and resting together.
As a first-time attender, I found myself being struck several times throughout the week by new thoughts and new ideas! The vision of CCDA is simple, yet it is something I don’t feel like I have been fully engaged in. Coming to this realization scared me a little, because I truly feel that this vision should be the mission of every person who calls him or herself a follower of Jesus. CCDA exists to equip leaders to one day be a part of “wholistically restored communities with Christians fully engaged in the process of transformation.”
When I think of Christians being fully engaged in the process of the transformation of their communities or seeking the “welfare” of their cities I think of the staff and volunteers that work with Bridges-People who sacrificially enter into the lives of kids in our community to show them something different, to introduce them to someone who loves them more than they could ever imagine, and to help them realize who they are in Christ.
I am entering my 4th year with Bridges and I have been so blown away by the hundreds of ways in which God has changed me by allowing me to be a part of the mission of this ministry. It’s hard to describe the love I have for this group of amazing, talented, intelligent children that I am deeply connected to. And I can’t help but be saddened by the fact that I never would have met them had I not been introduced to Bridges.
As the week went on CCDA kept bringing up this beautiful picture- not of churches being “in” the community or “for” the community- but a picture of churches being “WITH” the community. I heard stories of churches that meet the physical and spiritual needs of people outside the church walls, people that have to be sought out and found, instead of people who just wander in. I began to question why I hadn’t been introduced to this group of kids I spend time with by the local church instead of by a program with no affiliation to the church.
I love my church and several others in our community! I believe in the value of fellowship with other Christ followers and have seen the church do some AMAZING things to meet the needs of others, but we have so much room to grow! I was really challenged to begin seeking the “welfare” of my city as a church attender instead of relying on other agencies to connect me to the needs in my community.
I was reminded last week of Christ’s intentionality in seeking the lost instead of waiting on them to come to Him and I want to encourage the local church to follow that example! My life was forever changed when Bridges connected me to some pretty special students that have the talent and ability to do incredible things. They just need a little direction which is something that I can offer! I discovered so much about myself and the ways God has gifted me through serving the students at Bridges. I can’t help but wonder what amazing things God could do through a whole congregation if instead of just donating money to a GREAT cause we donated our time and talents to transform our community through RELATIONSHIPS with people who have needs that we can meet. There are thousands of people in our city that are hungry and thirsty for more than just food and water, although those are needs that need to be met. People are hungry for encouragement and knowledge. They are thirsty for attention. They are looking for support that we as the church can give them! Do we see them?
Be encouraged church! We have the ability to make positive changes in our city, to walk alongside those who need support, and to help create a community that is truly flourishing! We have so many opportunities to affect that change. As individuals and as churches, I hope we take that call seriously. I invest my time and energy with Bridges Outreach because I love my community and I can have a part in meeting the needs of students and their families. My challenge to you is to get involved in a local ministry to do the same. If you are looking for a place to connect in ministry to our community, Bridges Outreach would love to be a resource that can shed light on some specific needs in Kokomo, so please contact us! You can visit our website at bridgesoutreach.com.
-Chelsea Radcliff, @chelsrad