By Brian Mavis
Where do you think God is asking us to join him? What great doors of effective work has God opened in the United States?
In John 5, Jesus said the Father is always at work, and he, Jesus, looks to see where God is working and joins him in that work. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul said he would stay longer at Ephesus because a great door of effective work had opened up (16:9). In Jesus’ instructions to the church in Philadelphia, he said he had placed before them an open door that no one can shut (Revelation 3:8).
So where are the doors we should be walking through today?
Here are 12 great doors I believe God is opening.
1. Mentoring and tutoring at public schools
Only five years ago if a church asked a public school what it could do to help, the school’s most common reply would be, “We need help with the facility . . . painting walls, raking leaves, scraping gum off of desks.”
Schools still need that kind of help, but today the most common reply churches hear is, “Can you help us with mentoring and tutoring our kids?” The spirit of cooperation between schools and churches has been a remarkable transformation, and it is happening nationwide.
2. Reaching the multifamily housing mission field
If people who lived in multifamily housing were categorized as a people group, they would be classified as an unreached mission field. Only 4 percent of people who live in multifamily housing attend church. Managers of multifamily housing units are opening their doors (and apartments) for churches to serve on site and provide activities, Bible studies, and even worship for their residents. God has brought the mission field to us.
3. Providing refuge for refugees and immigrants
Speaking of the mission field, many who live in multifamily housing are multicultural. The foreign-born population in the U.S. has tripled in the past 40 years and currently totals about 43 million. I was recently at a church in Carmel, Indiana (a city selected as the “Best Place to Live in America” by Money Magazine). The medium-sized church serves at an apartment complex where nearly 2,000 refugees from the Karen and Karenni tribes of Burma live. This kind of opportunity exists in hundreds of cities throughout the country.
4. Being there for single mothers and fatherless children
In 1960, 9 percent of children were dependent on a single parent. That percentage tripled to 27 percent by 2010. All totaled, there are 13.7 million single parents in the U.S. raising 21.8 million children. Obviously there are single fathers, but the vast majority (84 percent) are single mothers. (Thirty-six percent of all births are to unmarried women.) This, of course, has resulted in what is being called a “fatherless America.” The church can help these single parents and provide father figures for fatherless kids.
5. Joining the foster care and adoption movement
Christians have seen “the plague of fatherlessness” and have mobilized to make a difference by becoming foster and adoptive parents. There are about 500,000 children in U.S. foster care who need a safe home, and 100,000 of those kids need a forever family to adopt them. Not every Christian is called to adopt, but every Christian is called to care for widows and orphans. A Christian adoption movement is becoming an acknowledged phenomenon.
6. Riding the elder care wave
There are 77 million Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964). Every day about 10,000 of them turn 65 years old. Over the next 40 years the number of people age 65 and older will double, and those 85 and older will quadruple. The Baby Boomers will redefine retirement and change all facets of health care and work. They will generate huge medical needs, but they will also be more active and do more volunteering than previous generations. The coming silver tsunami is a golden opportunity for the church.
7. Offering holistic health care
Medicare. Obama care. Church care? Modern health care is a Christian invention and churches are reengaging in that call. Churches are starting health and medical clinics to share the love of Christ by providing quality, affordable, and compassionate health care for vulnerable individuals and families. Churches are seeing support from the community and getting volunteer help from medical professionals.
8. Loving your neighbors—your actual neighbors
A radical idea is moving through some churches: our neighbors live right next to us, and we should love them. Sure the idea is about 4,000 years old, but it’s starting to catch on. Churches are encouraging their people to be the best neighbors they can be. In the Denver area, more than 55 churches and 4,000 households have committed to the cause, and other cities are launching similar efforts.
9. Combining faith and work
Most adults spend 80 percent of their waking hours at work. Christian workers want more meaning from their work. They also want to know how to behave as Christians at work at a deeper level than “don’t swear so much.” Churches have the opportunity to teach people how to apply a Christian worldview to their profession and industry and how to become agents of change. Faith works, but work also needs faith.
10. Working for unity in the body of Christ
Throughout the country, more and more churches are cooperating instead of competing. Churches are crossing racial and denominational boundaries, and they are praying for each other and working together. Restoration Christian churches should be helping lead this movement.
11. Putting a stop to human trafficking
Churches typically are criticized as latecomers to battles against injustice. But in addressing the horrible injustice of human trafficking, churches and Christian ministries are leading the way. More and more, law enforcement is working with churches and ministries to fight human trafficking around the country. This faith-based opposition against human trafficking is being called the new “Christian abolitionist movement.”
12. Lifting Scriptural literacy
It might be wishful thinking on my part, but people in churches throughout the country seem to be expressing a deeper hunger for the Word of God. They want to understand the big story of the Bible and what God is doing. Life topics are fine, but people really want to know the promised plan of God and how Christ fulfilled it.
Those are the doors I see God opening. He is, undoubtedly, opening more. The key question is this: which door is God calling your church to walk through?
Brian Mavis is executive director of the Externally Focused Network. He also serves as the community transformation minister a LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont, Colorado.