Pastors, Steward Your Presence and Place
Christ, in his infinite wisdom, ordained the local church. Ekklesia, the Greek word that is translated as “church” in English, had a particular meaning in Jesus’ time. It was a group of Roman citizens sent out to live permanently in the various places of the empire to become influencers of the local culture for the Emperor. This is the idea Jesus likely had in mind when he said he would build his church, the ekklesia (Matt 16:18).
Aaron Brockmeier is leading a local church that has as its goal influencing the local community on behalf of king Jesus. Faith Baptist Church in North Minneapolis has been doing so for over 130 years. While other urban congregations, planted in the past centuries, saw their presence and influence in the local community come to an end, Faith Baptist pressed on. Their leaders made a strategic commitment to remain in place and use their building and presence to be a major influencer for the kingdom in North Minneapolis. Here is his story.
Stewarding God-given assets
Faith Baptist Church (FBC) has been a part of the North Minneapolis (NoMi) neighborhood since 1885. In 2015, after the departure of a faithful and well-loved senior pastor, there was the start of a church-wide visioning process. This clarified the future vision of FBC into the dual foci of establishing stronger relationships with one another and doing more and more (1 Thess 4:1c) to reach the local community. A number of steps were taken toward those foci in the next two years. The church hiring me as a senior pastor was one of those steps.
I quickly realized that FBC is a healthy church with a true desire to actually reach and serve our NoMi community in greater ways for Christ. There was also a depth of leadership at FBC — women and men who trust in the faithfulness of God’s Word and seek to live it out in all areas of their lives. This legacy of trusting the character of God and his promises developed a relationship and resource strong church. Recognizing I would be stewarding these God-given assets and the deep desire of the congregation to move forward in greater ways to serve the community was humbling.
I am thankful for the great connection of peers and mentors through Work with Purpose (WWP) and the Made to Flourish Pastor’s network (MTF). These relationships were developed in my previous pastoral role and are now utilized regularly as I seek advice, ideas, and prayer to more effectively lead toward the greater fruitfulness in the community.
As FBC seeks to reach out more and more to the NoMi community, three key themes in my pastoral work and in FBC’s future vision have been deeply shaped by faith, work, and economic wisdom (FWE): Place, presence, and leadership.
Through engagement with FWE theology five years ago, I came to understand how foolish it was to separate faith from work and the rest of life. I love the guidance Wendell Berry provides in this area, writing “There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.” As I pastor at FBC, the WWP and MTF networks are invaluable for helping me communicate that where people find themselves on Monday and where they play on Saturday and where they worship on Sunday are all places to live out the gospel.
The more people recognize the sacred work they are called to at church, at work, at home, and in their communities, the more they are empowered to be light and purposefully seek to be missional in the desecrated places in their community and world. At FBC we are finding out that our next step of exploring God’s vision is not somewhere else. Instead, we are realizing how God is calling us to be at work right where we are in our homes, workplaces, and community. As T.S. Eliot wrote, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
Through FWE resources,* I have been able to help our church continue to consider the practical applications that come from understanding the church as one of two institutions designed by God for the good of the local community (the family is the other). FBC has always sought to be present in the local NoMi community. In 2008, the church remodeled the main entry to create a more welcoming and hospitable exterior that allowed people to see both in and out. Today, we are building even more on the understanding how the church is the key actor in addressing issues facing our communities.
FBC is an institution that is motivated by love to seek the welfare of our community, and we have the ability to invite all community players to the table to work together for the common good. Realizing the role we have as a church in NoMi and seeing examples of other churches** has enabled us to move forward with greater engagement in the neighborhood. With humble confidence we are now intentionally opening doors to relationships with schools, non-profits, and other community organizations, knowing that through both our presence as a people and a place we can be a blessing to the local community.
The greatest encouragement I have as the pastor of FBC is that I do not lead alone. Through MTF and WWP I was able to bring others from my church to the table to learn with me. Books, articles, events, classes, seminars, and speakers provided through these networks have enabled me to help others develop a more integral understanding of FWE. This, combined with WWP providing strategic guidance and coaching for FBC in our vision process, helped us articulate five objectives to direct us in fulfilling the future vision of FBC. Here are two specific objectives with FWE implications we implemented at FBC:
FBC objective: Families with children in North Minneapolis are flourishing
As the hands and feet of Jesus, we desire to help meet the emotional and physical needs of families in our neighborhood, in addition to their spiritual need.
What does this look like? FBC partners with local bodies of believers and organizations that complement our mission. FBC partners with neighborhood schools. Opportunities are provided to share the gospel with neighborhood children. Congregants are aware and responsive to the needs of the community.
FBC objective: The FBC family lives out the gospel
Congregants are equipped and challenged to demonstrate the love of Christ for individuals and for the world in every aspect of their lives. What does this look like? Young attendees represent Christ in their school. Attendees are intentional about building relationships with co-workers and neighbors. Attendees are motivated to engage the world by loving and serving well because it brings glory to God and good to humankind.
“In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists” (Eric Hoffer). In this changing world, I am confident that if we continue learning and being faithful to God’s call, we will steward well what God has blessed us with and serve our NoMi community better today and in the future.
The specific vision for the future of your church will be different, but if you choose to learn the biblical teaching of FWE, I know it will help you and your church be faithful in God’s call.
“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful,” (1 Cor 4:1–2).
This article is adapted from a new course at Bethel Seminary, written by TediAnne Hasapopoulos, Leading Whole-life Discipleship: Exploring the Biblical Foundations Supporting Four Pastors’ Stories of Whole-life Discipleship Integration.
*Dallas Willard’s chapter “Pastors as Teachers of the Nations” in Knowing God and Amy Sherman’s writings and presentations https://www.madetoflourish.org/people/amy-sherman/ are great starting points for this.
**A great example of this is the model pastor Lisa Welter’s designed to address child welfare and the Connected Kids Initiative. https://connectedkidsinitiative.org/Topics: Church Mission, Mission & Outreach, The Faith at Work Movement