When Jesus calls us to make disciples, he’s not talking about just from inside the walls of the buildings where we meet for worship. Again and again, Jesus sends his disciples out. To proclaim and demonstrate the amazing good news, the amazing freedom that the Kingdom of God brings. The call to evangelism is really the call to bring incredible blessing to those who don’t have it yet.
And as I was recently reviewing the 2016 Missional Leaders Meeting talks, I really enjoyed how Jim Pool, pastor of the Renaissance Vineyard Church in the Detroit, MI metro area, spoke about this idea—about evangelism and about loving our cities. If you haven’t had a chance to listen yet, do it. There’s so much good stuff in Jim’s talk. But the phrase that really stuck out to me was “Pastor where you’re at.”
As I’ve thought about that phrase, it’s come to mean a few specific things to me that I think are really helpful. First, it points to a perspective shift. In his talk, Jim discusses how Jesus sends out his disciples to make more disciples, and he ties it in with a verse in Jeremiah:
“...Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” —Jeremiah 29:7
Pastor where you’re at means looking beyond the group of people who would identify themselves as part of our churches and inviting those people to join us in loving and pastoring the larger community. This is a basic part of what it means to be salt and light. Salt isn’t doing anything inside the salt shaker. It becomes powerful and transformative when it is spread all around. So what if you pastored your whole city? Prayed for it? Loved it? Served it?
Thinking about all the opportunities I already have, built in, to pastor people is kind of thrilling. We hold our weekend service in a community center that we rent from one of the little towns that make up our community. So I have an opportunity to pastor the city clerk and other office workers. The backyard of the house I rent makes up a large part of the interior of the city block on which I live. It’s a great tool to help me pastor my neighbors. I can pastor the people who work at the post office, my dentist, the library, my favorite restaurant and coffee shop.
Pastor where you’re at also means “start with what you can do right now.” You probably don’t have the resources, time, volunteers, or know-how to address all the needs you see in your community. So don’t focus on what you can’t do. Identify what you can do with where you and your church are at right now. Jim’s example of this was that the Renaissance Vineyard wanted to do something to serve the poor. So they decided what they could do to start was bring 20 bags of groceries to the neighboring trailer park once a month. From there, a whole ministry grew. But it started small, with what they could do with the resources they had.
And finally, pastor where you’re at means actively engaging and serving in your community. There are likely thousands of ways you can become more influential, pastor more people, and become more of a blessing to your city. Find ways to engage with people—literally, just get outside. Outside of your house, outside of your church service, even outside of your routine, and go to where the people are. You could choose to walk or ride a bike instead of taking a car —more opportunities to meet people and pastor them. Eat out and pastor your server. Go to your city council meetings and ask how you can help and serve—pastor your city workers. Go to bars. Go to festivals. Join your Chamber of Commerce and start pastoring your local business leaders. Go out and pastor wherever you find yourself. Pastor where you’re at.