A Community Approach to Mission
by David Phipps
artwork by Lisa Katzenstein
The Global CHE Network is a collection of organizations, churches, and individuals. Like the United Methodist In Mission Together program, CHE focuses on long-term solutions to the problems faced by international communities.
Community Health Evangelism (CHE) is initiated in a community by a two- or three-person CHE training team—dedicated Christians who speak the language of the people in a community and live close enough to visit frequently. CHE trainers are generally supervised by a local organization—whether a church, an association, a denomination, a mission agency, or an NGO.
As the trainers start out in the community, they gain awareness of community concerns and resources. They then facilitate a process by which the community members identify solutions and begin to work together in an organized way. With the trainers as catalysts, the community gains hope and vision and a development process is begun.
The trainers assure that community leaders understand CHE as a way they can address their physical, social, and spiritual needs themselves, not a program that offers them money. The key to CHE is the community’s willingness to take responsibility for addressing its own problems.
Through a series of open meetings, the community members decide whether or not to do CHE together. If the decision is affirmative, the community then selects people to serve as a local leadership committee, which is prepared for its work by the training team. The leadership committee, in turn, trains local volunteers. Then the CHE program is officially launched by the community.
The combined influence of the training team, the leadership committee, and the volunteers creates a dynamic process of learning and change in the community. Physical and social health improves, projects are accomplished, and spiritual growth occurs as people come to faith in Christ. The community changes from the inside out.
CHE works because it is the community’s own program. CHE trainers serve as catalysts and consultants for change. The CHE Network offers these tips for US congregations to consider before they set out to do a work project or a volunteer-in-mission trip, whether in or outside their own community.
- Begin with Bible study. Try a study of the Gospels with the following questions in mind.
- What words and actions of Jesus were focused only on his followers?
- What words and actions of Jesus were focused only on those not following him?
- What words and actions were given to both groups?
- Ask the Holy Spirit for godly wisdom and conviction just before reading Isaiah chapter 58 and Matthew 25:31-46.
Learn about pitfalls and study best practices
Practice your methodology
- Pray for God to direct your heart and the hearts of your pastor and congregation regarding local and foreign missions.
- Spearhead an effort at your congregation to host a CHE Vision Seminar. www.CHEnetwork.org
- Invite your pastor and a representative from Neighborhood Transformation to meet together for a discussion on your church plan for local mission. www.neighborhoodtransformation.net
Neighborhood Transformation (NT) trains lay people in how to enter a nearby neighborhood, develop relationships, and identify assets already found in neighborhood individuals and groups. Then through work with the local residents, this information is used to improve overall living conditions.
- Intentionally meet the eight neighbors who live closest to you.
- Invite two of those neighborhood families/individuals to your home for a meal. Ask questions and listen to their answers in order to learn about them. Repeat this step with all your neighbors.
People in the United States are focused on the “how” of getting a project done. We want to “do” things. However in mission, we need to work out who we are before we can decide what to do. Actions done with good motives but weak wisdom and short-term commitment lead to stumbling, disappointment, and even resignation. Taking the time for spiritual preparation, seeking guidance, and learning about practices that work will go a long way toward the end goal of helping those in need.
David Phipps is a representative of the Global CHE Network, or Community Health Evangelism, which is a partner of the United Methodist In Mission Together program. The Global CHE Network is based in Phoenix, Arizona. Lisa Katzenstein is the executive secretary in Global Ministries’ Leadership Development office. This article originally appeared in the January-February 2014 edition of New World Outlook.
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