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Empowered to Influence: Part 3

Lorna Johnston /Monday, March 4, 2024

Empowered to Influence is an 8-session video-based course intended to be offered using the normal structures of a local church, e.g. Sunday School, small group Bible study, etc. This blog series is to explore the paradigms that are explored in the course.  


Paradigm 3 – Worship that Adds Value to Communities 

Have you ever walked into a church with a different liturgical tradition than yours? It feels a little strange at first to not recognize the patterns that everybody else is using. Now imagine someone who doesn’t have a church background walking into one of our services. What seems normal and obvious to us might feel very strange to them.  

But realistically, most unchurched people wouldn’t imagine participating in one of our events because we are completely irrelevant to them. In this third paradigm, Ken Chua explores the shift in thinking that we, as Christ-followers, must make to have any relevance or attract the interest of those in our community.  

Dissolving Boundaries, Flavouring Communities

Using the metaphor of salt already introduced in earlier sessions, Ken considers the idea of salt in its visible form—in the saltshaker, and salt in its invisible form - dissolved into the food it is intended to flavour. He contends that to be useful and active, salt must lose its form and become active in its environment.  

Likewise, for Christians to be useful and active in our environment, we must lose our ‘churchy’ forms and become integrated and active in the community. We must adapt our behaviours to the patterns and practices, the ‘liturgy’, of the community we are engaging. This doesn’t mean we lost our core identity as Christ-followers, but we do ditch behaviours that don’t serve and benefit our community’s purposes and priorities. 

Only when we are willing to do this, will our spiritual influence become activated. 

Ken points out that all communities exist for a reason - whether it’s a business focused on production and profit, or a strata council focused on building management, or a recreational team focused on fitness and fun. In each case, the purpose and thus the desireable behaviours and rules of engagement are well understood.   

A church community exists for spiritual development; thus, our focus is on gospel themes such as forgiveness, integrity, unity and love. The pastor and the community attempt to emulate the kindness, gentleness, forgiveness and mercy of Jesus Christ.  

But those same behaviours may not make any sense or be of value in other communities. While we must always exhibit Kingdom Values of Righteousness, Peace, and Joy (described in Paradigm 1), we may need to learn to express them in ways that are understood and have a good impact in another community’s context. If we try to live a ‘church culture’ in these other contexts we become unappealing at best and - at worst - may be viewed as a deficit to the community. 

The challenge is for us to put aside our Christian conditioning and examine the practices and priorities of the community in which we are active to discern how to engage it well so that the good that is there is built up, and what is not good is transformed.  

If we are unable to do this, we remain ‘visible salt’ in the saltshaker, critical of the environment, rather than engaging in it. If we can engage, by joining hearts with the people in our communities and working towards fulfilling the goals of the community, then we have become ‘invisible salt’, spiritually active bringing Kingdom Values - Righteousness, Peace, and Joy - to it, and that is very relevant and interesting to them.

If you are interested in running the Empowered to Influence course in your church, please contact our Simply Mobilizing team by filling out the form on this page:  Empowered to Influence. We'd be glad to help your church congregation run the Empowered to Influence Course!

Lorna Johnston is the Diaspora Ministries Leader at Outreach Canada. She leads two national teams -- Simply Mobilizing Canada (SMC) and Loving Muslims Together (LMT). She works with teams of diverse and experienced leaders and ministries across Canada to alert and activate the church in Canada to the changing opportunities to engage God's mission right here in Canada.



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