As a pastor I often have unique opportunities in the community. Like officiating a wedding for a neighbor, or being invited to pray over someone's house and family, or be the default guy to pray before dinner in big public settings (I've learned to expect being asked on the spot!). These are unique opportunities where my work and relationships connect. Let me share two more recent examples.
The first was a memorial service for a school community mourning the loss of one its students. My only connection to the school was through a teacher. Her son played sports with my daughter and I happened to coach them. The mom and my wife would often chat on the sidelines. Knowing what I did for a living, I was asked to be a part of this very sad but meaningful ceremony for the school in which she teaches.
Next, I was asked to participate as a clergy person in a powerful demonstration at High Point High School to demonstrate how someone dies from drunk driving every fifteen minutes. With another pastor it was our job to read fake obituaries in the classrooms of students who were "lost" to drunk driving every fifteen minutes. Though it was all fake, it was a sad and surreal and thought-provoking exercise. But it was also a great opportunity to see the halls of a school where so many in our community learn.
Those opportunities are only possible because of a connection. Someone I know had to connect me with an opportunity. Those connections go two ways. Sometimes my connection with the community helps me preach good news (like the school memorial service). Other times my job it's the other way around--my job as pastor invites me into the community (like the drunk driving demonstration). It got me thinking a lot about how we connect with our communities.
I hope we all have a chance to connect with our community in some way. Our jobs are community connections with others around us. Our kids participating in local sports is a community connection. Where we live can be a community connection with our neighbors. Being a regular at a restaurant is a community connection. Even trying to see the same gas station attendant every time you refuel can be a community connection. Most of these we don't even think about. But what if we saw them through the lens of God's kingdom? Then those people we connect with matter more to us. Suddenly we look for opportunities to connect more frequently and deeply. God places us each in our own unique settings to connect with others with his good news. No, we're not all preachers. But we are all people called by God to show his love and truth wherever he places us.
Sometimes we think the work of "outreach" feels outside our comfort zone and is only for a select few people. But what if we called it "community connection"? Well, that's a job for us all. Friends, God invites us to have his eyes to see our community and all those who dwell in it as an opportunity for his grace to become clear. We live, work and worship here for a reason--our local community belongs to God. We serve him in it because God connects his church with the people around us he is calling by name. Our community connections are a holy responsibility for us all.