What kind of influence does Lakewood Connects try to make on churches and church leaders? What is the aim of our influence? For millennia, Christian faith has focused on sharing the “Gospel”, or “good news.” That good news is a promise that all people can be freed from anything that separates them from God through Jesus. This good news has been “shared” for 2,000 years and recently it has been shared in ways that offend and anger non-Christians.
It’s hard to convince nonbelieving people about any religious, political, or sales claim. The divisions of our time make believing any message of hope hard. People don’t appreciate anyone forcing their views on them. We live in a cynical, divided and skeptical age.
What is a Jesus believing church supposed to be about in the first place? Before any message can feel like “good news” the struggles, depression or needs of humanity must be met first. A message of hope can’t be heard by a suffering heart.
Lakewood Connects is encouraging, modeling, and leading Lakewood Faith Communities towards a “Community-First Focused” philosophy of ministry life. By this we mean three things: 1) Connection, 2) Compassion, and 3) Collaboration
Connection: Churches must make and build relationships with their local community. By meeting, listening to, and building relationships with our neighbors we obey the “love your neighbor” part of the “greatest command” (Matthew 22:39). Whatever “good news” is, it has to start here!
In 2012-13 Lakewood Connects supported a partnership between education, government, neighborhood associations, business, and faith to transform a derelict school sports field into a “Field of Dreams.” When churches connect service leaders together suffering is reduced in the city! The church is “Switzerland;” their main passion is alleviating pain and it is impossible to do this unless every key agency, program, and service group work together for the greater good.
Compassion: Churches must exemplify meaningful compassionate service in their local community. Often churches do great things in other places, but if suffering goes unmet in those who live across the street then we’re missing the chance for compassion to touch and profoundly change us first!
The service churches offer must be the best programs making the most meaningful impact in the city! The Bridge Church at Bear Creek partners with Bear Creek High School in Lakewood to offer top notch programs supporting mental and emotional support at the school. The church funds this through operating a coffee shop and regular community enrichment events. To facilitate this the church redesigned their building to be a welcoming community gathering space for the neighborhood. By investing in compassion first and ensuring that the programs they offered were top quality the church has become “the light of the world” Jesus envisioned in Matthew 5:14. Over 150 people a day visit the coffee shop and 500 High School students enjoy a pizza lunch on Mondays. Compassion builds a hope bridge!
Collaboration: Churches must invite their nonbelieving neighbors to serve the city with them! When those who believe in Jesus incarnate the Gospel through diverse and trying circumstances without any strings attached then the Jesus we profess will start making sense to our neighbors! Through collaboration in the work of compassion the mysterious veil of the message of God can be lifted. We don’t have time to argue with culture, there is too much suffering in our world and too few collaboration champions out there bringing the world together and forming them into an army of good. Churches must lead their neighbors into meaningful service that changes lives! This is the promise of the Gospel and seeing is believing!
Cloverdale Church of God has supported the homework club in the most impacted Title I elementary school in the city for several years. While serving this high need school pastor Michael Hooven is often referred to as the “School Pastor.” There is no official title like that in a public school… but he earned that title by leading initiatives and building partnerships that change lives. This year this school will take a bold step and set up a facility offering food, clothing and medical supplies to the community. To support this work Pastor Hooven gave up his church office; it’s now a food storage room! Building collaboration isn’t a slogan or a bumper sticker icon, it’s a path of sacrifice that erases suffering!
Community-first focused… this is the kind of leadership needed for every community in our country today. Lakewood Connects is honored to encourage, model and lead churches and church leaders to a Community-First Focus in order to reduce suffering in our city! Thanks so much for your support!