Last night I submitted the last assignment required to complete the ‘Sociology of Christian Community and Practice subject.’ The paper was an analysis a church with a membership over 200 people – with the clause that it couldn’t be our home church.
I have previously written as to how I initially struggled to understand the topic. It was like learning another language. Gradually I had a series of light bulb type moments as I went ‘aha’ that’s what is happening. I admit that I struggle to write in an academic manner and often struggle to understand what is written in academic circle. Yet this class above all others has helped me to understand the process of writing and the need to write well as well as the process of understanding what is written.
However, like so many preachers do, I am starting to stray off topic.
I believe that for a church to engage successfully with society, it needs to have a understanding of the society in which it exists. Not only does the church need to understand the society and community in which it exists, it also needs to understand itself. And if you were to come up with a succinct, one word explanation for ‘sociology’ it would be ‘understanding.’
And within this framework of understanding, the pastor should be a person of understanding. The congregation doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Society doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Every person has been shaped by life experiences, the congregation has been shaped by its own journey of experience and likewise society has also been shaped by its own experience. And this happens on a individual, local, national and global level. And therefore the pastor needs to understand the events, influences and processes that shapes our being.
Armed with this knowledge, the pastor will know how (or seek to know how) to engage with society within a framework of faith and understanding of faith. Within the framework of faith: there is a deep abiding knowledge of the sociological influence and impact that happened to the world through the the coming of ‘Emmanuel,’ God is with us. The pastor is to know that God is with them. They are to know how to share this good news of God being with us. And because they know the society in which they live and the church community whom they pastor: they will know how to start the process of building up, equipping and releasing the church community as to how to understand themselves and the community in which they live. And therefore because of this understanding, they will also know how to start the processes of engaging with the community and how to tell the community the good news that Emmanuel, God is with us, is indeed in our midst.