This pastor of an unregistered urban church talks about the importance of vision and his churchs vision to serve the community. A medical professional by background, he understands the need to care for people holistically. As a result the church is active in promoting healthy marriages, providing educational opportunities, and addressing medical needs in the community. In so doing he believes they will have a positive impact on the masses of people in their midst. The article is from the Christian Times website."
Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law." (Proverbs 29:18, ESV). With the rise of the urban church, it has become normal for churches to have clear public statements expressing their beliefs and vision. These show the purpose and direction of the church, and they closely unite believers and church pastors alike. A staff member of the Christian Times invited Pastor Zhou, of the Beijing Olive Tree Church, to share the vision of his church.
Talking about vision, Pastor Zhou said, "Vision is very important. People with no vision will cast off restraints. If their lives have no purpose, they will have no direction. People need to have direction in their lives. If the church has no vision, it can't lead the congregation forward. And the church's vision must be a divine revelation from God."
Pastor Zhou believes that the churchs vision must but guided by the Holy Spirit. It must be a unique, long-term goal to move in a certain direction.
This goal should be able to guide the church as it moves forward, and it should allow people to achieve different goals at different stages in the process. The vision should be definite and concrete, not hollow or vague, and be moving in a direction that is an appropriate direction for this day and age.
Pastor Zhou said that since the Olive Tree Church is in a community, it serves as a community church, which will bring about blessings to the people of the community. In China, it is unusual to hear the phrase "community church," but this is quite common overseas. Many communities in other countries were built around a church building, and the church is a place of influence in the community.
Pastor Zhou thinks that since the church is located in a community, first and foremost it needs to serve the local people. Therefore, their vision is from Isaiah 54:23, to enlarge the places of their tents, stretch their curtains wide, not holding back, lengthening their cords, strengthening their stakes. In this way, they will spread out to the right and left, and their descendants will dispossess nations, and settle in their desolate cities.
The church needs to mature and be built up, and believers need to influence the people who live near them. If our family wants to influence another family, as a Christian family we should get along well and love each other, and the light that shines forth from our family will attract them.
Pastor Zhou emphasized that when people become Christians they must bring true blessing to their communities. The church wants to bless society by blessing the masses. This doesn't only mean sharing the Gospel, hoping they will become Christians, but showing people that the church can be a positive influence in society.
How can the church put their vision into effect? Pastor Zhou says their church is doing it in two ways: one, through the family, and two, through free medical consultations.
Christians must first be good citizens, and good members of the community. Although we have our own life patterns, as a Christian family, we want other people to see that a family can be happy and that marriage can be happy. Regarding families, the church will offer some lectures such as how to strengthen a marriage and how to educate children. The church will also offer children some extracurricular training opportunities, and parents can attend together with them. These training opportunities for children are based on the Biblical value system, and talk about the importance of building a child's character.
"For example, we'll teach children how to forgive and accept other people, and how to share with others. Parents will also learn some principles and strategies for how to raise children. When we tell parents that they should learn how to praise their children, they say it is hard to do. We tell them that when someone has learned how to praise God, they will know how to positively praise their children." Praise isn't fake – it comes from a life that reveres and thanks God.
If the church helps parents build good character in their children, they will be interested in knowing God. This is also a good process for communicating the Gospel.
Besides this, the church offers free medical consultations. Pastor Zhou is himself a doctor, so he has a burden for this. The church has offered some free medical services, helping people in the community. Pastor Zhou also mentioned that the health station in the community does not often do normal health work these days, so the church can also consider how to use some resources for that.
Actually it's difficult to serve a community. Pastor Zhou said that some people don't understand or misunderstand what the church is doing. Because of the normal social conduct in modern society, people don't trust each other. But he believes that if the church perseveres in serving, they will positively influence the masses in the end.
At the next meeting of church staff, Pastor Zhou will spend a great deal of time discussing the vision of the church. The pastor hopes that when the church has big ideas and wishes, the church staff will carry out the details. He hopes that believers won't only serve within the church, but also in society. There are some things that we never realize are lacking until we do them.
To be continued
Original article: 北京牧者谈教会异象：城市社区型教会（上）
Image credit: Kate Ter Haar, via Flickr
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