Wednesday 9 May 2012


Changing the community begins with paradigm shifts and personal transformation. Truly change starts from within.

A movement is gathering momentum in our nation. It is affecting the way we “do church”. More and more believers are stepping out of the church’s four walls and making a difference in the community. Lunch-hour office fellowships, community clinics, thrift shops, dialysis centres and street feeding programmes are just some of the encouraging signs.

Believers who sincerely want to bring about significant change to the fabric of society need to go beyond thinking church (their own local church). They need to widen their perspective and put on kingdom lenses.

What is the Bible’s view of kingdom?  The kingdom is any place where God has authority and dominion. It is not confined to a particular place (read church building). Also, kingdom values are relevant to all and not only for a select group (read clergy).

Developing a kingdom mindset enables believers to influence and impact the community. Advancing His kingdom is, in effect, extending the realm where His authority and dominion reside.

Author Eric Swanson believes that a church should not just grow to show off its size and strength but to expand its capacity for service to the community. Such a church is internally strong but externally focused.

Swanson and his co-author Rick Rusaw wrote “The Externally Focused Quest (Becoming the Best Church for the Community)”. In the book, Rusaw shared how, whenever he flies, he likes to “move from the aisle seat to the window seat” to get a better view of the scenery. By analogy, he challenged the church to shift its focus from the aisles to outside. It’s not about becoming the best church in the community but for the community. “Changing seats is always difficult — especially if you’ve been buckled in the aisle seat for decades,” he wrote.

Loren Cunningham, founder of Youth with a Mission (YWAM), shares what he calls the “Seven Mountains of Culture” — Family, Church, Education, Media, Arts and Entertainment, Business and Government — that believers can make a difference in.

Linking it to Jesus’ concept of the kingdom (Luke 17:21), he points out: “The kingdom is in your heart; it’s within you. Whenever Jesus is on the throne of your heart, the kingdom has come. And when you go into a sphere, the kingdom has come into that sphere.”

Now why mountains? It is based on what Caleb said in Joshua 14:12: “Now give me this mountain …” Like Caleb, believers can claim these spheres of influence as their inheritance.
A missionary is one sent by God on a mission. Whether you’re a school teacher or a missionary who goes to a foreign land to witness, you are sent by God. Whatever you’re called to is holy, be it “secular” or “spiritual”.

In his book “Transformation”, author Ed Silvoso highlights four misconceptions that derail big plans that God has for the Church:

  1. There is a God-ordained division between clergy and laity.
  2. The church is designed to operate primarily inside a building and mostly on Sundays.
  3. Marketplace ministers are not as spiritual as pulpit ministers, mostly because they hold a marketplace job.
  4. The primary role of believers in the marketplace is to make money to fund the vision of those in the pulpit.
Before we can think of impacting the community in a big way, we need to debunk the above myths. Clearly, a paradigm shift is needed.

The foregoing seems to imply that marketplace believers lack spiritual depth and should merely play the role of financial supporters.

However, if believers understand and reaffirm the theology of the “priesthood of believers”, then a vibrant group of marketplace ministers will arise. The apostle Peter declares that we are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). We also reign as “kings”, being seated in the heavenly places with Christ (Ephesians 2:6). We are able to minister to others because our competence is from God (2 Corinthians 3:5, 6). The Holy Spirit empowers us with wisdom and knowledge to perform the task God has called us to do.

Bezalel, a craftsman filled with God’s Spirit, could make artistic designs with both wood and precious metals for the Tabernacle (Exodus 31:2-3). Though he did not have Moses’ ability, he is nonetheless recognised as skilful and empowered by God. Certainly, we cannot regard the former as “second class” in God’s hierarchy compared to the latter. In fact, natural talents and God’s empowerment make a powerful combination.

But the question is how do we determine our calling? Is it to become a “full-time worker” or a marketplace minister?

Believers need not fret when this issue arises. Missionary Norman Grubb has this bit of practical advice:
Do not give a thought about how you should become a transformed Christian and serve your community. Walk with God, not ahead or behind but beside Him … accept yourself, be yourself, love yourself! He has mapped out His plan for you even before you were born. So start by appreciating that you are a special person and specially gifted by God. For what purpose? That is not your business. That is God’s business. Get on with your daily occupation and put all your heart into them … “Be still and know that I am God” … So be still; have faith in God and enjoy Him until He opens the door where you are to serve Him.

Marketplace believers need to embrace their “calling” positively. Paul taught the principle of status quo that everyone is to remain in the same occupation he was in when he was converted (1 Corinthians 7:17, 20, 24). True religion does not seek to disrupt social order.
However, Paul’s declaration is to be taken in a general sense, and not without qualification. It does not forbid the believer from making a change in his profession if he is convicted God may be calling him into a different field, be it in full-time ministry or the marketplace. If he has an intimate relationship with Him, he will come to know of God’s will God will confide in him, treating him as a friend (John 15:15, Psalms 25:14).


Having the right motivation is so important as it provides the impetus as believers do good works for the community. Should believers serve others to gain brownie points for themselves? Or with an ulterior motive in mind — to share the Good News?

First and foremost, believers should serve others out of gratitude for what God has done for them. God has planned that, after we become His children by faith, we should live a purposeful life characterised by good works (Ephesians 2: 8-10). And we’re able to love others because we have experienced God’s love (1 John 4:10-11).

Rev Dr John Stott shares some insights regarding motives in service:
To sum up, we are sent into the world, like Jesus, to serve. For this is the natural expression of our love for our neighbours. We love. We go. We serve. And in this we have (or should have) no ulterior motive. True the gospel lacks visibility if we merely preach it, and lacks credibility if we who preach it are only interested in souls and have no concern about the welfare of people’s bodies, situations and communities. Yet the reason for our acceptance of social responsibility is not primarily in order to give the gospel a visibility or credibility it would otherwise lack, but rather simple and uncomplicated compassion. Love has no need to justify itself. It merely expresses itself in service wherever it sees need.

So love should be the primary motivation for social responsibility. We serve not to make others Christians but because we are Christians. If those who have been served do not respond to the Good News, we should still joyfully serve them — with no strings attached. Though evangelism is the ultimate motive, it should never be the ulterior motive for serving others.

While mercy (as in “giving fish to others”) improves a person’s life for a day and empowerment (as in “teaching others how to fish”) uplifts a person’s life for a lifetime, evangelism blesses a person for eternity.

With this big picture in mind, believers should go out to influence and impact the community and nation. Will you rise up to the challenge to be an agent of change?

The above article was first published in Asian Beacon magazine, October 2010, issue 42.5.

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