Why Civic Engagement Belongs in Every Church's Mission Statement
Michael Decker wants to make the name of Jesus famous in Costa Mesa, California. How? By caring for his city's people, their leaders, and their place. In 1995, when he was invited by Costa Mesa's chief of police to volunteer as a police chaplain, Decker became attuned to the value—indeed the calling—of all Christians to see their civic engagement in light of the social responsibility entailed by the gospel. This involvement also became a catalyst for recognizing how largely unconnected he still was from non-Christians. "I said that I loved lost people and had a desire to be in relationship with them, but when I looked at my life, I was in relationship with very few." Since 2000, he has planted Palm Harvest Church, joined the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce, and helped birth One Church for Our City, a coalition of Costa Mesa churches whose members and leaders seek to bless their city in concrete and strategic ways. Reflecting on his journey, Decker says, "I am not on some mere career path, waiting for the 'next big thing.' Where I am serving now is the 'big thing' because here is where God dwells and I am seeking to obey the call to love what He loves where I dwell … unless God says otherwise, I am here for the long haul."
Whether we are businesspeople, parents, church leaders, civic leaders, Decker's journey and practices are an example of how churches might steward and unleash their members' vocations for the good of others.
Mike, I appreciate your story and service, especially since it so practically informs your 2011 D.Min. dissertation at Biola University's Talbot School of Theology, about "Church-Based Strategies for Civic Engagement." What can this engagement look like?
Engagement involves relationships with people affiliated with the local schools, Chamber of Commerce, Departments of Public Safety, and other agencies in one's community. These agencies are vehicles through which God's kingdom presence can be expanded.
What fuels my civic engagement is the desire to be a witness for Jesus and ambassador for him in these circles, while influencing people for righteousness.