“If it weren’t for those __________ churches…”
I will never forget that statement.
I was in my mid-twenties, serving on a board of the local non-profit. We were discussing how we could raise more support for the organization. I had participated most of my working career (which was obviously short at that point), financially contributing personally and helping them raise funds. Every year we had the same discussion. How could we raise more money to do more good?
In the middle of our discussion, a greatly respected and leading businessman in our community made that statement. “If it weren’t for those _______churches we would have plenty of money. All churches do is take from the community, serve their own interests, and rob the community of needed money for charity.” The room instantly echoed and agreed with his bold remark. I was young and intimidated, so I said nothing.
Honestly, however, those words stung. As an active member of one of the largest church in town, I didn’t believe anything he was saying. Our church, along with most churches in our community, were doing good things to help people. If all we did was change people’s lives and send better people back into the community, we would be doing good things, but there were many church-connected ministries helping people in our city. Not to mention, many of the top contributors to this organization were active members of some of those same churches. (I was one of them.)
I never forgot those words though. It shaped me and my view of ministry.
Years later, when God placed the dream on my heart to plant a church in my hometown, I knew some of what that church would look like. Not that I seek the approval of man, but I wanted to be a part of a church that reversed that paradigm some have from the outside looking into the church. I wanted to be part of a church that would truly make a difference in our community, so much so that if we were gone, people would miss us.
One of the first things we did as a church was to partner with our city to reach some low income, impoverished areas of the community. For the past several years, once a year, we have put together as many as 1,400 people to invest in people outside the walls of our church. We sent over 800 people into our schools to meet the requests of principals in teachers completing things their budgets couldn’t afford to do. We participated with local radio stations to gather thousands of pounds of food for the poor. We’ve helped to launch a ministry to homeless people and one to military wives. We’ve been consistently called upon by our community to help with local festivals and events, and even by our mayor to help in flood recovery efforts.
My wife, who works in a local credit union and is active in the community is frequently asked, “Are you part of that church that’s always helping people?” We love that question. We both get it often.
I think our intentional investment is one of the primary reasons our church has grown into one of the fastest growing churches in America in a little over 6 years.
Please understand, I’m not trying to brag about what we are doing. I believe other churches are making a huge difference in their community; certainly many more than ours. I simply want to encourage any church I lead to show our city the love of Jesus and maybe even encourage your church (and mine) to do more. I think we have a better chance of reaching our cities for Christ if they know we care. The more we get out of our buildings and meet real needs, the more we’ll have opportunities to share the hope we know is in Christ.
In my time at Grace, we’ve tried to be intentional about letting our community know we love them…and so far…it is working. I’ve got a new assignment in ministry ahead and in my discussions so far, I’m encouraging this church also to greatly invest in it’s community.
Share with me. What is your church doing to display the love of Christ to your community in a practical way?