Effectiveness, individual and communal
September 13, 2019
Recently, I had the opportunity to go live on a radio interview in Bridgetown, Barbados to speak about my company, YouBelong, a platform that connects individuals to local church communities. The premise of the interview was how I started YouBelong and the importance of community within the local church. The interviewer stated that although Bajan churches are ubiquitous, they often lack effectiveness and depth in building communities.
Interestingly, local pastors report that Barbados has the highest number of churches per capita in the world[i] yet local leaders consistently highlight a lack of depth in community and effectiveness propelling the gospel forward. After debriefing with the MIX 96.9 radio team, interviewing Pastor Derek Ward of Harvest Bible Chapel Barbados and speaking with Pastor John Carter, Samaritan’s Purse and Bajan Pastoral Coordinator, they all agreed that the obstacle of the Bajan church does not lie in numbers, but in effectiveness. The dilemma in Barbados is similar for us here in the United States, underscoring the issue of efficacy. Research suggests that church attendance and Christianity are declining in this country, yet the number of religious congregations in the United States has increased by almost 50,000 since 1998.[ii]
Efficacy and quantity are two factors, that if coupled together, can create a lasting impact in our communities. If the church, which should function as God’s hope for the world, demonstrates healthy relationships, assembles diverse individuals (no matter the background), serves the poor and marginalized, and helps equip its congregants in leadership and discipleship, our communities would reflect hope and positive change. For example, my grandfather, Rev. Dr. Manuel Ortiz, has planted numerous churches in the Philadelphia area that gather people from both suburban and urban backgrounds, while challenging them to have a heart for the marginalized. This mobilized the congregation to build a community center, a health center and a Christian school within the Hunting Park area in Philadelphia. A church was present within the community and the effectiveness of transformation was evident.
If the church demonstrates healthy relationships, assembles diverse individuals (no matter the background), serves the poor and marginalized, and helps equip its congregants in leadership and discipleship, our communities would reflect hope and positive change. On a micro-level, if we would be bold and become effective in our own spheres of influence, our communities, households, jobs, and schools would be transformed as well.”
Citizen Heights Church in Washington D.C. is yet another positive example of what can happen when the local church is effective. Its leaders and congregants work to reach a diverse audience, from the homeless to politicians and world leaders. Politicians, diplomats and other dignitaries are able to attend and become impacted by the gospel, in turn affecting their spheres of influence. Citizen Heights’ effectiveness lies in its determination to welcome all people while discipling and empowering Christians in the marketplace. This church has affected change by sharing the gospel with individuals from all socioeconomic and political backgrounds regardless of the length of their stay. These churches in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. have been effective in building tight-knit communities and propelling the gospel forward. Although their approach looks different, both have reached hundreds of people while transforming their surrounding communities.
On a micro-level, if we would be bold and become effective in our own spheres of influence, our communities, households, jobs, and schools would be transformed as well. Effectiveness can be measured by the way in which we live out the gospel (might I emphasize “live”). Effectiveness is us getting out of our comfort zone to serve others, forgiving when we may never receive an apology, loving when it hurts, caring when it’s inconvenient and becoming servant leaders. Your effectiveness is powerful, and directly correlates with the effectiveness of the local church.
You are created in God’s image, and God intends for you to “make some noise” while on this earth. Like the local church, choose to be effective in your own right. I often recall the phrase my pastors use: “The church can’t be all that it’s intended to be, until you are all that God has created you to be.” You are the church. Once you become effective, the church becomes the transformative hope of the world as God intended it to be.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.
[i] Interview with Pastor Derek Ward of Harvest Bible Chapel Barbados: 16 July 2019.
[ii] How Many Churches Does America Have? More Than Expected. Christianity Today. 14 Sept 2017.
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