“We strongly believe that the relational tie is the tie that will help to bring about healing and start to make a long-term difference in our community.”
LESSONS FROM 2020
No one would argue with the assertion that this has been a year of unprecedented challenge for the church. Outreach magazine wanted to learn directly from leaders on the front lines about how their churches have been innovating, meeting people’s needs and serving as a force for healing.
Here, Jeff Bogue, senior pastor of Grace Church of Greater Akron (Largest 58) in Akron, Ohio, relates his thoughts on the global pandemic, the recent and ongoing racial tensions and how leading the church is changing.
Since we had to rely on our online presence during the shut down, we came up with methods to release our people to do outreach directly. For example, we do something called Pray for Your 3, where you commit to praying for three people by name every day. We would often remind people to reach out to their three by inviting them to an online community or having conversations with them through text or phone.
I started an online program called One City with three friends, who are pastors in the community. We are two African American brothers and two white brothers who are trying to model what it is to listen to each other, understand each other and then come up with helpful pastoral solutions that people can actually take and implement personally.
We are helping our people think about how they can intersect. For example, a football coach who attends our church and whose team is primarily white connected with another football coach who attends our church and whose team is primarily black, and then they practiced and had dinner together. We strongly believe that the relational tie is the tie that will help to bring about healing and start to make a long-term difference in our community.
We have approximately 50 students studying for full-time ministry at our church right now. Having a dynamic core of young men and women who are fully committed to Christian ministry brings a creativity to outreach efforts like few other things do. As they train, and as we help to form their thoughts and they help to shape ours, a dynamic is created in which zeal and wisdom are blended to effectively reach our community.
During this year of so many changes, I have to constantly remind people who they are in Christ. We are not victims, nor are we simply survivors, but we are overcomers and conquerors. Teaching that to a congregation in such a way that it’s not personally self-serving to them, but rather reflective of God’s heart for his church. Every obstacle is an opportunity for the gospel, and God allows those obstacles so we will see and embrace those opportunities in ways we would have never thought or imagined.
We have developed incredible skills when it comes to crossing culture and learning to understand people whom we would not naturally understand. Unfortunately, many times those skills are only applied on the mission field instead of in our own communities. If we can translate that passion and those skills into a local community, the church could serve as an enormous bridge of help and healing. We exegete biblical culture all the time. If we could use those same listening and understanding skills—and still bring that information through the grid of Scripture—the world would be a different place.