This is a question that a person can really sink their teeth into.
First of all, I like it because it is broader than a question like "What can we do to further the Kingdom of God?" I think that tends to be the more common question that churches ask themselves. But this question is bigger than that, broader than that.
Somehow inherent to the question posed to me is that community transformation begats (good Bible word) Kingdom Building. I like that.
It got me to thinking about something I was involved with a few years ago through the local United Way and that was a community needs assessment. At that time, we reviewed every bit of information we could get our hands on that related to community needs. We also interviewed many members of the community.
Out of that assessment came the identification of particular "at risk" groups. Those included underprivileged children, the elderly, young families, single parent families, those suffering from alcohol and drug addiction, and those with major chronic health concerns. It was our opinion at the United Way that we needed to allocate dollars given to us to organizations that would help these identified needs and particular "at risk" groups.
As the church, I think that we would be doing well to focus our efforts in similar areas. We may though want to narrow down our focus a bit further and concentrate on areas where we can have the greatest impact.
And in all cases, our goal should be the same: to show Jesus' love to these "at risk" groups. Our goal should not be to hand out religious tracts or drag people into our building. That is not what Jesus would have done. Our goal should be to show His love in radical and dramatic ways ... but to do so only because it pours forth naturally from the indwelling Holy Spirit.
I would focus first on those who are importing or manufacturing drugs in our area. This can be a tough, scary and intimidating group. It will be a group that will frustrate and confound us. It will be a group that may not really feel like they are lacking anything. Yet we cannot stop the drug problem in our community without affecting those who are at the root of it. What if we did something so simple as have a team that goes out every Saturday afternoon to those areas of town where we know drug activity occurs and we bring them small gifts of food. I have read recently of one very missional church that is doing this. Are they changing the world overnight? No. Are they having more impact than passing out religious tracts or preaching to folks? I would suspect they are.
Next, I would focus on single parents. Our local Christian school has noted that we have a lot of single parents sending their kids to it. I suspect this is because the parents feel pressured and overwhelmed and want to have ensure that there is some steady positive influence occurring in their child's life. Unfortunately, many of the single parents who approach the school cannot have their kids go there due to not having adequate financial resources. What if we as a church could come up with a way that all single parents in our community who wanted their kids in a Christian school would be able to have their kids go there regardless of financial need?
And what if we could also focus on other "at risk" groups like the elderly and the chronically ill including those with mental illnesses. What if we could serve as a resource center to help them find and get to the social services that can help them? What if we can be there just to be their friends and to lend a helping hand when they need it? What if we can help them obtain the healthcare they need, despite their financial need?
This all sounds overwhelming. "We" cannot do it but I believe that God, in the form of the Holy Spirit flowing through His people who love them, can.
It takes a message we must carry out. That message, properly carried out, will bring us the resources we need.
And that message is very simple: Mission, Vision, and Changed Lives. Tell people what we intend to do, tell them how things can be, and then show them proof of God's effectiveness. They will respond and God will help us accomplish His will.
We can transform our community and that will grow God's Kingdom.