Entry six of a six-part series
Over the past five blogs we have answered the question: “Why it is critical for the church to be involved with the poor?” (If you are just joining this discussion and want to get caught up with us start reading the first entry of our series found here)
As we end this short series it only seems fitting to share one of the incredible ways we are seeing a church embrace the call to love and care for the poor of their city.
Founded over 15 years ago, Imago Dei Community in Portland, Oregon is a church that has embraced the call to be involved with the poor. I spent a few minutes talking with Josh Butler, the Pastor of Global/Local Outreach about the heart of Imago Dei. Here are a few of the highlights.
Part of the vision of Imago Dei Community, in relation to outreach, is to recognize the power of community. The body of Christ is a diverse and beautifully gifted group that when equipped and mobilized both individually and corporately can have deep impact. This vision for what God can do through the body of Christ has lead to a number of strategic decisions in relation to global and local outreach.
As Josh would say “The church has better ideas than me.” While most churches are driven by programing designed and lead by the pastors or staff, Imago Dei takes a very different approach to ministry.
“If we start with the premise that God has gifted the body with creativity, vision, talent, imagination and experiences than it is much easier to recognize that together they could come up with far greater ideas than I. Our role as a church is one of stewarding, equipping and unleashing these gifting’s. We want to come alongside them and what God has stirred in their heart and be a resource for them.”
This philosophy has lead to the concept of Missional Grants.
“The missional grant’s primary purpose is to support those at Imago Dei who are seeking to launch and lead new strategic, missional ministries that mobilize the body of Christ at Imago Dei into loving, serving and prophetically engaging our city and world for the glory of God.”
The Missional Grant allows congregation members the freedom to come to the mission’s board to share their vision for ministry that they have in the city. The board then considers their request and walks with them (sometimes financially, sometimes not) through the process of engaging in this ministry. Josh mentioned that the board typically has about 20 requests on a yearly basis and approximately five or so are granted financial assistance. With or without finances however the board commits to trying to equip and encourage the individual in their ministry idea.
After talking to Josh for about 45 minutes I left with some amazing examples of how Imago Dei has found this structure to be empowering and mobilizing in their church. Very unique and creative ministries have been launched by simply allowing the people who make up the body of Christ at Imago Dei the opportunity to be empowered to serve as God has called them.
Josh gave me the example of the Foster Care ministries they have. It started with an outreach to the various foster care offices in town. This ministry initially helped to make the offices a welcoming and inviting place for parents and children alike by repainting and cleaning up the office spaces. From here a ministry called Welcome Boxes emerged. After seeing the need for showing kindness and love to the children in the offices as they were waiting to be placed, the church created the idea of welcome boxes. These are boxes of age appropriate items that the children receive while waiting in the office. This box lifts the spirits of the kids and gives them something of their own to take with them to their new home. Out of these ministries was then launched Foster Parent’s Night Out, which is a ministry to the parents of foster children. This ministry engages numerous foster care parents around the city and utilizes scores of volunteers from the church body. What started as an outreach to a few offices has now burgeoned into multiple ministries that are making widespread impact. “If God has gifted our people, which we believe he has, then they will continually come up with ideas I would never have thought of.”
While Imago Dei continues to grow and fine-tune their global and local outreach they have captured the vision that outreach is both empowering to the congregants and recipients as well as edifying and sharpening to all who are involved. When God is at work there is no telling what kind of creative and engaging ideas will come to pass!
We are thankful to Imago Dei and many other churches around the nation for the work they are doing in their cities to love the vulnerable and build the kingdom of God.
I hope this blog series “Mission Critical – Why the church needs to be involved with poor” has been a helpful and strengthening series. If you have comments or further questions about this topic please connect with us. We would love to talk with you! Or if your church has been working in this area and you would like to share what God is doing in your midst please let us know. We would love to celebrate with you!