Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions 6 Plumblines for Community Engagement

6 Plumblines for Community Engagement

In 2004, God convicted our church that we were not displaying the generosity of the gospel toward our community.

During that season, I was teaching through the book of Acts, and we came to Acts 8:6-8 where it says, “The crowds paid attention with one mind to what Philip said, as they heard and saw the signs he was performing  …  so there was much joy in that city.”

I asked our church if there was “much joy” in our city as a result of our presence there. We believed the answer was no, and so we resolved that with God’s help we would become a blessing to our city—to demonstrate Christ’s love to them and to bring his healing to the places in our city that needed him most.

Shortly thereafter, God brought to our attention an underperforming public elementary school in our inner city. It was the worst ranked school in our county and was on track to be shut down within two years.

At the invitation of the principal, we led several innovative projects for that school over the next several years.

Our people started tutoring children and some of our small groups adopted classrooms and teachers and met physical needs of families in the school. One soon-to-be-married couple in our church asked that any gifts for their marriage be redirected to a family in the school whose house had been destroyed in a fire.

By the fourth year of our involvement, the school had the highest percentage of kids pass their end-of-year exams of any school in the county. The principal officially credited the church’s efforts with helping to improve the school’s academic performance. At a subsequent teacher’s banquet, one of the teachers said, “I have always known you Christians believed you should love your neighbor, but I’ve never known what it looked like until now.”

In 2010, I was invited to speak at our city’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. rally, a televised event sponsored by our local government for our city and county government officials.

I thought I was an odd choice for the MLK rally, and I was pretty nervous about the whole thing. As in, “Joel Osteen at an Acts 29 event” nervous. The county manager, sensing my anxiety, said:

“J.D., we asked you to speak today because we couldn’t think of anyone to better embody the spirit of brotherly love in our city than you all at the Summit Church.” I was told, “Everywhere in our city there is a need, we find someone from the Summit Church there.”

This experience galvanized our church in such a way that serving our city is part of our church’s DNA now, with a significant amount of our church body involved.

We summarize our philosophy in these 6 “plumblines.”

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J.D. Greear, Ph.D., is the President of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastors the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. Tagged by Outreach magazine as one of the fastest growing churches in America, the Summit has grown in the past 8 years from 400 to over 5,000 each weekend. The Summit Church is deeply involved in global church planting, having undertaken the mission to plant 1000 churches in the next 40 years. J.D. has authored Breaking the Islam Code and the upcoming Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary.