Reaching Out, Not Looking In
Lee Kricher, Senior Pastor
AMPLIFY CHURCH, PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA
Author, For a New Generation: A Practical Guide For Saving Your Church From Extinction
Churches, like individuals, can experience transformational relationships. They’re the kind of relationships into which you invest a significant amount of time, energy and trust and from which you reap great rewards. Amplify Church has experienced this kind of transformational relationship with Compassion International.
The relationship started when our family sponsored several children through Compassion over several decades. It was important to my wife and to me that our two daughters would grow up knowing that life was about others – not just us. Our family’s relationship with Compassion International was a catalyst for making that happen.
I was inspired to extend that connection to our church when my wife and I attended Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit. There, Mark Pellingra, a member of Compassion International’s church team, introduced the idea that individual churches could partner with Compassion to make a difference in a particular community in the world. I had it in my heart for our church to make a difference in a community in Uganda.
Building any relationship requires trust on both ends.
Compassion International had to trust that our relatively small congregation of 700-800 (at the time) would step up to the challenge. And while I knew that Compassion had a 60+ year track record of integrity in ministry, it was still important to me to see first hand how our church’s resources would be used on another continent.
So before making a final decision to present this opportunity to Amplify Church, my wife and I traveled to Uganda to see Compassion’s ministry for ourselves. Our first hand observations while visiting the homes of children we were personally sponsoring strengthened our conviction that the people of Compassion International do what they say they are going to do.
While on that initial visit to Uganda, I met the pastor of a local church in Mukono, Uganda that supported a Compassion International Child Development Center. This man in Uganda had the same kinds of goals – the same pastor’s heart – that I did. Of course, his challenges and daily circumstances were much different than mine, but at our core, we were no different.
We made a genuine connection and Pastor Fred became my friend.
But I knew this couldn’t be just about my relationship with a pastor from Uganda; it had to be something that the people of Amplify Church embraced corporately. The natural tendency is for churches and people to think inwardly and I feel that part of my role is to challenge the people of our church to look outside of themselves.
In 2012, I presented a number of “Against All Odds” goals for our church to pursue in the upcoming year, including expanding our children’s area, opening a new campus and starting church online. But our first two goals were Compassion-centered goals. This was intentional. I felt that as an outwardly-focused church, we needed to start with goals that made a difference in peoples’ lives who were far from our church in Pittsburgh.
I pitched a big challenge.
I presented our church with the opportunity for individuals to sponsor as many children as possible from the Mukono community. The congregation rallied around this goal and the number of children sponsored soared to almost 300. We raised $9000 to build a piggery where pigs were raised to economically help the families in the same community as our sponsored children. Then we raised $35,000 to build a library and training center for our sponsored children and the other children in their community. As it turned out, our Compassion-centered goals inspired tremendous unity and passion in our church and created momentum that helped us to reach our other goals.
During the second year of our church’s relationship with Compassion, a team of people from Amplify Church traveled to Mukono, Uganda. Another team visited last month. All have witnessed first hand the impact of our church on the Mukono community. Interestingly enough, each person who has traveled to Uganda has taken away much more than expected.
One of the key takeaways has been observing the joy and contentment in the lives of the people in Mukono. Despite their circumstances and the really significant challenges they face, their faith is genuine and their focus is – get this – OUTWARD. They are dedicated to reaching their own local community for Christ and are partnering with Compassion to see the lives of the children of their community transformed. These experiences have challenged us to maintain an “others-focused” life, in keeping with the influence of our Ugandan friends.
The vision of Amplify Church is to lead as many people as possible into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
That is only possible if we have an outward focus in our city, community and world. I am so pleased that Compassion International helped us to develop and maintain this outward focus. Now we don’t just wait for a special missions month. We have children in another land who count on people from Amplify Church for regular financial support, letters, and prayers. We talk regularly about what we are doing in Uganda and what’s happening there. Our sponsored children are always on our hearts and in our minds. Their needs are woven into the fabric of our own identity.
It is obvious to me that God opened the door to our relationship with Compassion. That partnership has not just blessed me as a leader; it has affected the very nature of who we are as a church. The spiritual life of our entire congregation has become richer. It has positively impacted the vitality and health of our church. And it may seem strange to say, but I believe that our relationship with Compassion has enabled our church to better lead as many people as possible into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, because it has enabled the people of our church to be more like Him.