The following post is from Pat Bills
So how do you know if a church is living on mission as disciples who follow Jesus? In the book, The Good and Beautiful Community, James Bryan Smith tells a story of two churches…
When I was the chaplain for a small school in Wichita, I was approached by someone in the community from a local church. The person informed me that the church had decided to set aside a large sum of money for a “college ministry” and they wanted our school to be the designated recipient. But there was one catch. They wanted me to teach a special class on Sunday morning for college students. I (of course) obliged and began teaching while the school benefitted from a gracious gift of funding. Soon, the burgeoning class grew to some 25-30 students and all seemed to be going quite well.
Until I got a phone call.
Evidently, the students who attended the class were not sticking around for the worship service afterwards. They were coming for class and then heading to other churches for the assembly. The church asked me to inquire of the students as to why they weren’t sticking around. So, I asked the students why they did not stay for the assembly and they replied, “It’s boring and irrelevant. Besides, no one really talks to us.” When I called the church back and told them of their reasoning, the response was simple and direct: if the students do not stay for the assembly we will pull the funding for the college ministry. It seemed to me that the church was more interested in growing their membership than it was in serving these students. So… I decided to stop teaching. And the money stopped coming.
A few months later I received another call from a local church. The pastor exclaimed how the small community was aging and felt a need to explore ministry opportunities. One of the ideas was to be helpful to the college community. After all, the pastor said, we may be old but we still have a lot to offer. The pastor inquired as to how I think they, this old and “out of touch” church, might be helpful. I asked if they could cook. “Cook? We have some of the best homemade pie in the county!” I told him he might consider providing a meal after service on Sundays since the cafeteria was closed. I then asked if the church like to give “free hugs.” “Hugs?” the pastor replied, “Why we have lots of folks who love to hug on anyone that comes through the door.” I told him that many of our students were far away from home and a little TLC might go a long way. The pastor told me he was worried about the worship service. He explained they sang old hymns without all the “bells and whistles.” I informed him that college students may not be as interested in entertainment as he might think.
And so we set a date for a special Sunday.
I recruited some college students and the church provided lunch… and free hugs. And though the worship was slow, the hymns were old, the sermon was solid and the church was exceedingly gracious in their hospitality. Even more, the hugs from the older generation to a lunch afterward in which the college students were amazed by the home-cooking and hospitality. We enjoyed the warmth and hospitality so much that we kept coming back… and it is still my church home to this day.
The difference? One existed for the sake of themselves while the other existed for the sake of someone else. I don’t think Jesus ever meant for churches to be places for entertainment or building large worship gatherings. Jesus meant for churches to give generously for the sake of the world around them. So which church would you attend? Which church do you think was living on mission as disciples of Jesus?
Let’s choose wisely as we consider how we can serve others with the good gifts that God has given- no strings attached! And let’s not forget the hugs and homemade pie.
As you worship this week:
Meditate – on God’s great gifts
Contemplate – How these gifts change your life, daily
Seek – the joy in knowing that God provides for you generously in all things
Find – opportunities to return to God and others generously
Getting READY to Worship
Ready, Set, READ
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Ready, Set, MEDITATE
- What’s the greatest gift someone’s ever given you before? How did it impact you? Does it still? Did you tell the giver so?
- What’s one of the greatest gifts you’ve been able to give someone else? How did it impact them? Does it still? Did they tell you so?
- Do you consider yourself a generous person? Do others? Why or why not?
- What are some ways you could be even more generous with your money?
- What are some ways you could be even more generous with the other gifts God has given you that you could give more freely?
Ready, Set, PRAY
God, You are the giver of all things.
No one can out give you.
Teach us to give like you give and take away the fear that we lose something, when we give.
But rather show us in all ways that giving is gain.
Teach us to use this opportunity you give us each day, to tell the people around us of your love.
Open our eyes to see the need and to have compassion towards others so that your name might be given glory because of the generosity of your people.
“Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labor and not to ask for reward
save that of knowing that I do your will.”
(St. Ignatius of Loyola)
Ready, Set, WORSHIP!