The first week of November I enjoyed representing One Challenge at Taylor University’s World Opportunities Week. This was a lovely opportunity to interact with students who are seeking to discover God’s plan for their lives. As I was sharing with a student about how OC uses research to identify needs of communities and countries where we work, she shared something she learned in her public health class, where her professor repeatedly emphasized:
“You can’t solve problems for people living in a place you know nothing about.”
How true. To improve the life of a people, one must first understand the context.
Ed Stetzer points this out in the forward he wrote for Patrick Johnstone’s newest book, Serving God in Today’s Cities. “If you don’t properly understand the context in which you want to minister until after you start ministering there, your ministry will likely be more frustrating than fruitful.”
This week I participated in a webinar with Luis Bush from Transform World 2020, where he shared:
If the Church wants to be relevant and effective in the community, it needs good information that describes the community’s people and need, the condition of the church; and the spiritual forces which influence current reality. The Church must see the city as it truly is; not just what it seems to be. These data will show leaders God’s top priorities and highest leverage (greatest results per effort) ministries that will bring about the most impact and lasting results.
Thinking back to when I assisted a group of church leaders seeking to promote community development in Romania, it was their consensus that community development had to begin with a community needs survey. Only by knowing the people in an area and their needs, can relevant action be taken to improve the lives of those who live there. Or we might say that if we are going to love our neighbors, we must first know our neighbors.
Paul wrote to Titus “Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing deeds, so that they will not be unfruitful” (3:14). So ask yourself:
- What pressing needs in your community need addressed?
- What actions would address these needs?
- What resources can the Body of Christ muster to improve the life of people in your community?
- What information is already available about your community? Where can I find it?
- What other information would be helpful? How can I find this out?
- Is there anyone who is already studying my community? How could I help? If no one is gathering information, could I start the process? Who could help?
- How can I share what I’m learning about my community with other like-minded people?
I’ve always found that it insightful to go out and walk the streets of a community, praying about what I see. Seeing the people and their needs and bringing them before the Father’s throne never fails to stir up love for them.
Perhaps the first step to improve life in your community is to step outside and take a look around.