by Joel Holm.

As part of the Body of Christ, what is your church? A finger? A foot? An appendix?

I never knew much about the human appendix until my son’s blew up last summer. I asked the doctor what it was for anyway. He said, “Nobody really knows. You don’t need it. It’s fine to just get rid of it.”

Have you ever seen an appendix church? You don’t really know what it does in the Body of Christ. You could remove it, and nobody would notice. The only time we pay attention is when it blows up and infects everybody around. None of us want to be that!

Every church needs a cause or a reason for existing. What is your church’s reason? These days, there are so many types of churches to pick from. You can be a “seeker” church, a “purpose-driven” church, a “cell” church, an “emerging” church, a “mega”-church, a “G12” church, a “house” church, a “contemporary” church, or a “postmodern” church.

But what does God want your church to be and do? You won’t find your answer on some mountaintop, or in some grand vision, or in a rare ministry opportunity. You will find it instead in a need that you recognize and then carry as vision.

Acts 10 tells about Peter’s dream on the rooftop. A sheet full of animals descended, and God told him, “Hey—open buffet! Eat as much as you want.” Peter refused, of course, and God scolded him for that. Peter wasn’t sure what to make of all this.

Soon he arrived at a difficult spot—should he enter a Gentile house or not? He knew it would create lots of controversy. But he went ahead, admitting to Cornelius and his family, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism …” (v. 34). Peter didn’t get it before, but now he got it. He had entered a new reality. He had captured God’s vision.

When was the last time you went through an experience in your ministry that made you say, “Now I get it!” It’s easy to get so preoccupied with our own week-to-week life inside the church with all the programs and schedules that we can’t see anything bigger outside the church. Peter’s worldview was turned upside down. He was at the top of his ministry, seeing miracles, leading a great movement, serving as a main leader, yet he too needed a new reality.

So here’s a new reality question for the church today: Rather than only seeing the world in need of salvation, do we see it as the future of the Kingdom? In Jesus’ parable of the sower he explained to the disciples that the harvest from the good soil actually multiplied itself 30, 60, and 100-fold. The harvest is the source of the Kingdom’s greatest productivity. Does your view allow you to see people outside your church not only as lost and dying, but also as future leaders of the Kingdom? Do you treat them that way from the outset?

We all look at our congregations and say, “Oh, if only I had more leaders.” We’re looking at those inside the church. Maybe we’re looking in the wrong place. Maybe the leaders we’re seeking are actually outside the church.

When we look at the world, we tend to get a little sad and morbid. But when a farmer goes to look at his field with the crops growing high, he’s not sad. He actually rejoices over the abundant resource God has given him.

I think we need to get a new reality of the world. We need to have a faith for this reality, going out to them, seeing and treating them as the future of the Kingdom.

We wrongly think that we lead Christians inside the church and evangelize those outside the church. Actually, we should lead those who are outside the church.

Leading Where the World Needs You
A church in the Northwest went to their mayor and asked, “What do you need?” He answered, “Our town has all these storefront payday loan places, where they charge ridiculously high interest. People in the lower economic levels get caught in their trap. We need to help them break out of that and quit being victimized by these places.”

The church responded to the community’s need by setting up a financial seminar. They organized the entire event. They convinced banks to send in financial planners. They recruited corporate sponsorship. The ministries of the church provided all the logistical support such as free childcare and ushers/greeters to make people feel welcome and honored. The church was leading the community.

The community and the mayor were so impressed they soon invited church members to sit on several major committees of city government.

This church led their world instead of waiting on government programs to fix their community’s problems. They took responsibility for a need. That’s what leaders do: they take responsibility for something that is not their fault and help people not necessarily looking for help. This is what Jesus did. So should his church.

As the Body of Christ, we have so much to give the world. What if we measured ourselves not by church standards, but by impact on the community? What if we measured our finances not by how much we bring in, but how much we invest in the world? What if we measured our ministries by how they served outside the church? What if we measured our volunteer force by how many of those who were serving were not yet saved? What if we measured our church by life outside the building?

Lead the World Based on Your Strengths
So how do you apply this idea to your church and your community? How do you lead your world where you want to take responsibility? This church approached their community, but ultimately they used what they had.

They also addressed an existing problem. Jesus didn’t heal people from ailments that didn’t need healing. No, he healed their pain. This church went out into the community and responded to the pain that already existed.

We can’t know the pains in our community if we don’t go out into it. Furthermore, we can’t lead the world if it doesn’t know we exist. If your church were to disappear tomorrow, what page of the newspaper would carry the announcement?

A pastor challenged his leaders, “I want every one of you to figure out how your department or area is going to make an impact in the world.” The head of the maintenance department, who had five staff and sixty volunteers, wondered if they would ever do that. Still, the team began to pray how God could use a maintenance team – in their strength and gifting – to influence and impact their world.

If you begin to ask God some new questions, maybe you’ll get some new answers.

Shortly thereafter, a nearby junior high school went through budget cuts, losing part of its maintenance staff. The church maintenance department saw the need and knew God had uniquely wired them to meet that need, thus influencing and impacting their community through serving. For the remaining months of the school year the church mobilized to provide janitorial service to the school. Students and their families begin noticing this. Over those months, the church saw 50 families visit the church because of their service, with 30 families receiving Christ—all because of the maintenance department!

We must not come to our world as a messiah though. It already has one. The truth is, we need the world because it takes a lost world to build a strong church!

Why do I say such a bold thing? Because without a cause, the church always just plods along. But with a cause, we thrive. We do more than just hang out until Jesus returns.

This church had a cause because it went out into the community, learned its pain, and took responsibility for it. Christians worked with their strengths and led the community. They looked at what they had and gave it away.

The local church is the hope of the world. But we should remember, too, that the 21st-century world is God’s hope for the church.

When a natural disaster sweeps through a town—a hurricane, for example—people who normally don’t connect with each other begin talking to each other, sharing resources, and supporting each other. They clean out houses together. They link arms and face the crisis together. The crisis creates a community.

The world’s crisis is God’s great gift to us because it forces us to face a crisis. We link arms and become stronger. It defines who we are. It pulls us out of hiding. The world’s crisis is our greatest way to create community and vision together as a church.

Mobilize Leaders, Not Workers
This idea is not just about getting workers into community service projects. It’s about envisioning your church people to see themselves as leaders in their world. We often see our leaders only in light of how they can lead in the church. But mobilizing your leaders to lead the world will return the greatest harvest.

A church of a few thousand got hold of this concept and challenged its members, “For one year, we’re going to ask you to lead in this community—not necessarily as an evangelist. Right now, the world can’t relate to the church. But if you prepare the world for Christ, then we believe a lot of evangelism will take place.”

Members joined school boards, volunteer fire departments, and any place in the society where they could lead/serve. In the first year, a thousand people got into the fabric of the culture. By the second year, this church was seeing hundreds get saved.

When you go to Starbucks, don’t just look around at people who need Christ. Say to yourself, “There’s a future pastor. There’s a future youth leader … a worship leader.” This calls for a new reality of our world and a new reality of our church in the world.

Living in the New Reality
How has the world been used by God to teach and change your church? How might your current reality be adjusted? Peter had to go through a shift. He said he would never eat what was on the sheet. God said not to call something impossible that he had made possible.

What current reality of yours is actually stopping you from walking in God’s new reality? It’s not what we don’t know that hinders us; it’s what we think we know. That’s why Proverbs says, “Do not lean on your own understanding.”

We used to think the earth was flat. We used to think the sun encircled the earth. We used to think that taking blood out of people would restore them to health. We used to think hippies had nothing to offer the church. We used to think women had only minor contributions to make to the church.

In 1 Samuel 16, God told Samuel to go pick out a new king. He went to Jesse’s house and saw a big, strong son who looked like a bodybuilder. Samuel assumed this was the guy. No, said God, he’s a pinhead—get him out of here. The same thing happened with the second son, and the third. Eventually they got down to the little boy in the pasture. Not your picture of a king. But Samuel had by now adopted a new reality. Man looks on the outside, while God looks on the inside.

The disciples expected Jesus to overthrow the Romans and set up his own rule. They kept trying to position him to meet with the religious power brokers. No, he said, I’m not done playing with the kids yet. We have to finish this game of marbles. Somewhere along the line, the disciples finally got it. They embraced a new reality.

When was the last time God so invaded you and shook up your current understanding that you said, “Oh, I now realize how true it is that God…” –and you embraced a new reality? Maybe our new reality is that God calls us to lead and serve our world.

When We Lead the World, We Prepare It for Christ
When Jesus sent out the disciples, he sent them ahead of himself. He promised to go wherever they had already been. We often talk about training and equipping our people to go out into the world. But how many of us prepare the world for the coming Christ?

The stories in this article all prepared the world for the coming of Christ, for his message of love and grace delivered through the church in a real way. Through this new reality of leading and serving the world and seeing those in it as the future leaders of the Kingdom, God will prepare your community for Christ.

This article is condensed from a message given on April 23, 2008, at the FCA Convention in Minneapolis by Joel Holm. The son of FCA missionaries to Korea, Joel is President of Pathfinders International (, based in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

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