In the Anglican church, a parish is not only a reference to a church, but a defined geographic area over which a vicar has jurisdiction. The vicar of that parish is responsible for the souls, the spiritual well-being, of everyone in that geographic area. Within the parish the minister has the responsibility to visit the sick, care for the poor and widows, and most importantly – make certain that every individual has heard the Gospel message.
Reflection on this institution has led me to an idea which I am calling “The Parish Concept”. As I work at planting Immanuel Church of Fujairah, I have a burden to see the saints built up and equipped to do the work of Gospel ministry in this city. This city is overflowing with people who have never heard the Gospel and there is a lot of ground to cover. As I have reflected on ways to mobilize the church to reach this city with the Gospel, I have pondered on implementing the idea of parish in the lives of every believer in the church.
What I mean when I say I want to introduce believers in the church to the idea of parish is this:
- Show them that God has sovereignly placed them in their neighborhood and job for his purposes. Also, teach them that the same applies to their neighbors and co-workers. (Acts 17)
- Prove to them from the Scripture that they are called to love their neighbor in a tangible, above-and-beyond kind of way (Lk 10) and that this love is ultimately shown through obedience to the Great Commission (Matt 28) and lives consistent with our identity as ambassadors for Christ (II Cor 5).
- Make the connection between points one and two. God’s sovereignty and the call to Gospel proclamation and lives of sacrificial love. This makes the area where each believer lives, works, and plays their individual “parish” they have been assigned by God himself. That believer is called to seek the spiritual well-being of every person in that parish and to love them in tangible ways.
- I then need to disciple and encourage believers to take practical steps toward fulfilling their responsibilities. Encourage them to start with the people in the dwellings or desks closest to them and then to branch out until everyone in their sphere of influence has heard the Gospel and knows that this Christian in their life is someone who loves them.
- Through this the goal is that every person in our city would hear the Gospel and personally known a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ.
This doesn’t happen over night, but it is a helpful concept for me as I consider how to mobilize the people at Immanuel Fujairah to reach this amazing city and beyond with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our hope is not in methods, but in the Spirit of God working through the Word and I long for the Word to be quick on the lips of every Christian here! It is my prayer that every believer in Fujairah would take ownership of the “parish” that God has placed them in and that they would be faithful witnesses there.