By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 12/14/18.
In an attempt to describe organizations involved both locally and globally, a new term was championed by British sociologist Rolland Robertson: glocalwhich combines glo-bal with lo-cal. A host of Christian books have followed suit, using glocal as a descriptor for a congregation that is engaged in local and global ministry.
Therefore, a term more inclusive than glocal is needed. A term is required which reminds us that meeting the needs of non-churchgoers locally and globally also requires sustaining and assisting the health of a congregation of believers. A conglocal church is a congregation that has a balanced three-fold heart for foreign missions, for local missions and for congregants.
The designation conglocal reminds a congregation that it must balance its ministry to those inside the congregation, those nearby who are outside of it and those far away as well. In my consulting work, I have noticed that too many churches today spend the majority of their time looking after and meeting the needs of those within the congregation. This arises because the needs of those inside the congregation are heard the loudest and most frequent, due to social proximity.
However, the needs of those who are outside of the congregation pale in comparison with those with the church. One writer starkly reminded us that, “When a person dies without hearing that ‘God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16, RSV), it is too late. The best thing that could possibly happen to that person has been denied.”
Conglocalbalance in your financial expenditures
A key element of balanced conglocal ministry is balancing your fiscal expenditures in each category. In one client church, the pastor stood up and boldly proclaimed that the church was now giving 20 percent of its income to local (10 percent) and global (10 percent) ministry. While this is a step in the right direction, the church’s lavish marble atrium reminded visitors that 80 percent of this congregation’s income was still spent upon itself.
If churches are to foster authentic reconciliation between haves and have-nots as well as across physical chasms, then churches must start balancing their spending. The conglocal model provides a visual cue to churches of a church’s three-fold fiscal obligations. In a church with a growing conglocal heart you will find an increasing balance in expenditures toward meeting the needs of not just congregants, but also the local and global communities.
Conglocalbalance in your church life
More than balancing need-meeting in financial expenditures, it is important to balance your fellowship congregationally, locally and globally. Most churches spend a great deal of their time getting to know the needs of those within the congregation. Though there is nothing wrong with this, it can often be out of balance. A congregation must also regularly share life and interaction with those who don’t attend their church as well as those who don’t live nearby.
Research shows that face-to-face encounters help people from different cultures and socio-economic levels accept and support one another. Such face-to-face encounters with local and global people who don’t attend your church is an important tactic to maintain a conglocal balance.
Still, some readers may say that they work 40-plus hours per week with non-churchgoers and shouldn’t this be sufficient? Regrettably, in most of those workplace interactions, there is little sharing of spiritual values. Plus, in many workplaces discussing spiritual beliefs is discouraged. Thus, the conglocal church intentionally creates opportunities for local and global non-churchgoers to graciously discuss their faith journeys.
For example, one church cancelled its Sunday morning service, telling its congregants to go into the community to “find a need and fill it.” The pastor’s intention was to get the congregants out into the community seeking to understand and meet the needs of non-churchgoers. That Sunday hundreds of congregants spread out across the city to meet needs in Jesus’ name.
While sharing this story at a seminar, I noticed the assembled Wesleyan pastors looked uncomfortable. The General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church, Dr. Jo Anne Lyon was actually seated behind me as I spoke (which if you didn’t know Dr. Lyon, could be a disquieting prospect).
At the end of my seminar, she took the podium and addressed my puzzlement over the reaction of the pastors. “I know why some of you were uncomfortable with the idea of canceling church and going out to serve the community,” Dr. Lyon began. “I know it is because if you did, you couldn’t count those people in your monthly attendance totals. Now, I don’t know if I have the authority to do this. But, I’m going to go ahead and say that if you send your people out to serve non-churchgoers on a Sunday, then you can count every person they touch has having been in Jesus’ presence that day.”
Kindhearted smiles swept across the seminar participants, as they recognized that this general superintendent would not let tradition stand in the way of reaching out to those in need.
How will your church find a conglocal vision? Meeting congregational needs will create a foundation of health so the church community can reach others locally and globally. This creates a large and balanced vision for the church—a conglocal vision.
Excerpted from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart, by Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing 2013)
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