Partnering with the Community
Creating Missional Partnerships to Lead Community Shalom, Justice, and Healing
excerpts from an article by Ron Clark
Church Planter at Agape Church of Christ
After twenty years of preaching/ministry in established congregations (rural and urban), my wife and I felt called to plant a new congregation in downtown Portland.
I was beginning to “detox” from the traditional church growth teaching I received in graduate school. Preaching in a large congregation was a constant reminder that we were experiencing and pandering to what John Drane labels a McDonalization of Christianity.15
I was also aware that Christians in both leadership and congregations were failing to engage their culture. While it did seem as if many Christians felt that they were in [exile], it was even more clear that there was little being done to connect with their communities or offer a fresh view of Jesus. It seemed that we who were following Jesus were reacting to change rather than affecting it.
After launching Agape, we became intimately involved with local agencies through our work with houseless individuals, with those living in transitional housing and camps, with those in prostitution/sex industry, with addiction support groups, with survivors of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), with college students, with millennials, and with married couples. By developing relational communities, Agape’s home groups became public gathering spaces for people from various locations in Portland. These home groups enabled others to develop relationships and offer services to their own community through spiritual gatherings and inclusive communities. This comunitas(a community that gathers in the context of a shared ordeal or mission that lies beyond themselves) for captives became a pattern with Agape people serving their neighbors.27
Our beginning work with PUAH (Portland United Against Hate) has indicated that some of the group members perceive those who profess Christianity as the authors of many hate crimes and attacks on the LGBTQ community. Law enforcement, houseless advocates, and community trafficking/prostitution agencies strongly believe that faith communities need to partner with them in addressing social justice . . .
We believe that we are called to develop relationships with those in our local agencies through our ministry and expressing agape love, while restoring a positive view of Christians and the God of the Bible. Missional theology provides opportunities to heal open wounds from those hurt by people of faith . . .
We have also been able to work with anti-trafficking agencies and anti-prostitution groups by addressing cultural masculinity and its role in the sex industry and in the oppression of women, children, males, and transgendered youth. The God of mission continues to call Agape to partner with our community as leaders and with other leaders to offer a vision of hope, justice, and shalom.
For the full article, which includes the development of Agape's theology and the way its dedication to practicing what Jesus taught on love, social justice, and the incarnation, go to http://missiodeijournal.com/issues/md-8-2/authors/md-8-2-clark