I am currently engaged with a group of Northshore churches to assist them in establishing greater effectiveness in sharing the gospel in their community. I call it “adding another leg to their evangelism stool.” It is true that some churches continue to carry on “business as usual” by doing church the same way it may have been done 50 years ago… That is, “They (the community) know when we have church and they are welcome to drop in and hear the gospel.”
We must keep before us the primacy of the task of the church. That task is to share the gospel message, the good news of Jesus Christ, with a lost and dying world. Long gone are the days (if they really ever existed) when the lost community would venture into the doors of the church on Sunday morning to hear the gospel. I love gospel preaching but we may be dealing with a sad truth that preaching the gospel message on Sunday in our church may be no more than the preacher “singing to the choir.” The redeemed love but do not need the gospel… they need discipleship. The lost need to hear the gospel but they do not and will not hear the gospel from a church with a one-legged evangelism stool. This is one reason I love COMMUNITY ASSESSMENT.
As I work with these churches and as I teach a class of seminarians later this month about community assessment, I begin by saying that Community Assessment is a most effective “first step” when a church has made the decision to be intentional in touching their community with the gospel. Community Assessment gets the church outside the four walls and takes the gospel into the community where it is so desperately needed.
Paul was a Community Assessor. Acts 16-17 shows the methods Paul used as he traveled… and especially, in this case, to Athens. We note very specifically in 17:23, that before Paul began his work in Athens that he LOOKED CAREFULLY (niv). We may also note that in 17:16 Paul was DEEPLY DISTRESSED (niv) or PROVOKED (nasb). These are noteworthy comments in that Paul was a seasoned traveler and had probably seen it all. Yet he takes time to acquaint himself with this new stop on his missionary way. Finally, we see Paul engage three groups in Athens.. The synagogue (as was his practice), the marketplace, and the academy. He even takes heed of their monument to “the unknown god” and allows that to become a platform for sharing.
I encourage churches to conduct a Community Assessment. Community Assessment is a ministry tool that helps churches to discover strengths & weaknesses, strategic resources & partnerships, and needs & opportunities that exist in the community. Community Assessment provides a current point-in-time, information-filled snapshot of the community, enabling the church to make a gospel response to the needs expressed by the community.
Comment Assessment is to place the church squarely in the intersection of human need and Kingdom response. It is Kingdom action, changed lives through personal redemption. It is face-to-face interaction with community lostness. Community Assessment is about the ultimate bottom line, eternity.
Church planter, Bob Logan, said, “Few unchurched people are looking for a church. What they are looking for is relief from their pain. If we can become aware of and understand what that pain is, think creatively about ways to relieve it, and then demonstrate unconditional love, we will have come a long way toward the goal of reconciling them to God.” Bob Logan must be a Communiry Assessor!