Jesus said, “If? There are no ‘ifs’ among believers. Anything can happen!” (Mark 9:23, The Message).
Wow. Moses and Elijah appearing and talking with the transfigured Jesus must have been amazing! That mountain-top experience recorded in Mark 9 might have remained the disciples' only takeaway, if it weren't for following Jesus down the mountain. More amazing possibilities lay ahead.
When they reached the main road into town, a desperate father painfully complained that the disciples couldn’t heal his boy who suffered from symptoms of epilepsy. They had good intentions and tried. They just couldn't connect to the power required. Jesus could.
The disciples cornered Jesus and asked why they couldn’t heal the boy. Only through the power of prayer, Jesus said. God's power creates possibilities.
Possibilities can transform lives anywhere. Founded in 2010, The Possible Project (TPP) is a youth entrepreneurship center in Cambridge, Massachusetts that teaches high school students to start businesses of their own. The founders, Mark and Becky Levin, said the mission of TPP is that every student would use their skills to move through a high-level career path. But, what's more, the goal is that students improve their communities while remaining committed to the principle that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! TPP invites young people into a new future of possibilities.
A similarly focused but more expansive program is located in New York City, serving allusive boroughs. Called the Possibility Project, it is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization that also works with partner organizations in four additional U.S. cities to create and sustain local Possibility Projects in their communities. The Possibility Project does not believe that change should only happen at home, but strongly encourages the cast to take what they have learned outside to their communities and to be instrumental in creating community change.
Many congregations are experiencing transformation, too, and there are plenty of resources available. I recommend a new book titled, Bringing Good News: 40 Stories of Congregations and the Ministries that Transformed Them.
One story is about Second United Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh. Their fresh look at the possibilities for a park along the street prompted them to clean it up. Adding "inexpensive picnic table and an assortment of toys appropriate for toddlers," soon attracted parents that empowered an entire community to collaborate.
Second Church didn't just believe anything was possible, they became the possibility that a community park could once again bless the community's children.
Does your church believe that anything is possible? Pastors and church leadership in very diverse ministry contexts consistently tell me they want to make a difference in their community. Many do. But every church has great intentions like the disciples did. Perhaps you recall mountain-top experiences of long ago, but coming "down" has left you facing unexpected obstacles and challenges. There is a pre-requisite for life-changing transformation. By authentically connecting to God's Spirit of possibilities, prayerful engagement with our community results in our becoming possibilities ourselves.
There are many ways to foster deep community connections. For example, one-third of our churches are participating in New Beginnings that is rooted in prayerful engagement, a kind of incubation process, not unlike The Possibility Project in Boston, but for the spirit. (You may want to participate in a New Beginnings program. There are similar resources available for other denominational affiliations, too.)
Another way to foster deep community connections occurs when church leaders take intentional walks before, during, or after worship. The purpose is not to advertise programs or solicit support, but to actively engage and pay attention to what God is doing around them. "Walk with me" is a phrase that should be heard more often in our churches as leaders find ways to interact and learn outside the building.
While physically walking around a community is very effective, digitally walking around the community is useful, too. I recommend MissionInsite demographic tools. Many regional denominational and nonprofit organizations purchase MissionInsite contracts for their member churches and organizations. Or access demographic data available free such as the Census Bureau and the Pew Research Center. These resources can reintroduce your leadership team to your community, stirring the possibilities of transformation and blessing. Become more deeply connected to the possibilities in your neighborhood.
However, some of us in the church still seem pre-disposed to think that the community owes us something, such as showing up at our church events, while we struggle to make real connections. To the community at large, like in Pittsburgh, or in Boston, or when Jesus' team made their way down the mountain, our community wants to see God's love and transformational leadership in action. You can show God's love the community wants and deserves to experience! A lot of resources can be found here on Reciprocal Revolution's website.
You are an amazing gift to the community! Our communities expect more from our churches. Your church represents a unique possibility. You are also the possibility that neighbors will connect to God's spirit of compassion, peace, and justice.
Let's pay attention to Jesus when he said, "There are no ‘ifs’. Anything can happen.”
I believe anything can happen in your community, too.