Open to Outreach

As we continue our way through the vowels we have reached “O.” As I looked back over my previous articles on the letter O and on the topic of outreach, I am glad to say that much of what I had to say about the topic six years ago does not apply now. We are growing in our outreach into the community and, I believe, God is encouraging us to grow even more.

First, here’s what we’ve accomplished recently. Since we partnered with Ozarks Food Harvest in October of last year we have provided 1,216 boxes of food to families in our community. Just this past month we served just under 200 families and took in 39 new applications. Your willingness to pray, to financially support and to physically serve has touched the lives of 879 people in our community.

Think about that for a moment. 879 lives touched. That is amazing to me.

For me, outreach is like planting a garden. For the first time in many years we have planted a small garden this year. We built the raised beds, prepared the soil, and planted the seeds. And then it was time to wait. We did all that we could to prepare the ground so those seeds would survive, thrive and someday produce food for our family.

Outreach is much the same. We prepare the soil and plant the seeds of faith by building a relationship (however small) with those around us. Then we wait and water (and by water I mean, pray). And wait and water. And wait and water. Eventually new sprouts spring up, grow, and someday will provide food for the family of God. Maybe not at Marshfield Christian Church, but I have faith that seeds that others plant will find their way to our field and grow here…

Thanks be to God for the good work that has begun here at MCC. I pray that we will continue to plant, wait, and water through the Bread of Life. It is a vital ministry in our community. However, I believe it would be a sin to simply say “We are working hard at this important ministry. We can’t take on anything else.” I say that because I am convinced that God is calling us to yet another ministry. A ministry of openness to those with special needs in our community.

More specifically those with autism. I have been blessed to know several young people with autism and their families. For these friends, church can be a scary place. And because of their different way of relating to the world some of my autistic friends have been invited to NOT attend churches. Can you imagine churches encouraging families to go elsewhere because of the behavior of a child? Unfortunately I don’t have to imagine. I know it has happened.

I am on a personal crusade to ensure that MCC is a place of welcome and invitation to ALL people. I would ask for your help in this endeavor. I need a group of 3 to 5 people who are willing to work with me to make this dream a reality. Please prayerfully consider if God is calling you to be a part of this ministry, then call, text, or e-mail me so we can take the next steps together.

I believe this is our next step in becoming a community where all are welcome to the table, where all can be fed by the Holy Spirit, where all can develop a deeper relationship with God, and where all can be a valued part of the family of Christ.

The “I’s” have it!

Have you ever received two of the exact same thing for Christmas? I can see how getting two white dress shirts would be OK, but who really needs two George Foreman Grills? Or, maybe you received a gift and it was one of those really strange presents, like a Chia Pet. (Who really wants a piece of pottery that grows?) If you’ve ever received (or given) a gift like this you’re likely to have said (or heard); “It’s the thought that counts.”

And, you’re right. It is the gift-giver’s thoughts, or intentions, that mean the most to us. And, it’s not only in gift-giving that intent is important. During the recent frenzy of college basketball known as March Madness intent mattered, too. Whether or not a player fouls another intentionally makes the difference in the possession of the ball after the free-throws. Another example is when I accidentally hurt someone else (their physical self or their feelings,) it is easier for them to forgive me than it is if I’ve hurt them on purpose.

Our intent matters; both in our interactions with one another and in our church life. Awhile back, I wrote about the importance of knowing what we are “about” as a community of faith. These statements about ourselves and our community of faith say who we intend to be and how we intend to act. But, as I’m sure you know, intent without action is worth very little. You may have heard the proverbial saying from the 16th century that is often mistakenly attributed to Samuel Johnson; “The road to [nowhere] is paved with good intentions.” Yes, I edited the saying a bit. But, the idea is the same with the original (more “earthy”) version and my rendition; if you intend to do something but never do it, what good is the intent?

On the other hand, if we don’t have a purpose, a goal, intent, we are just going to go about doing things haphazardly, not thinking about the consequences or the outcomes. A mission statement, and a vision for the church are our guiding principles, but they are of little consequence unless they are placed into action. Intentionality, doing things with a specific purpose or reason in mind, takes that sense of purpose, that vision and that mission and combines it with the action necessary to actually move forward.

We must be intentional in our church life. When we plan an activity or an event, or even a worship service, we need to ask ourselves what we want to accomplish, what outcome we wish to see. And, maybe most importantly, how does this fit with our overall purpose as a congregation. Instead of simply jumping in with both feet into every mission or outreach opportunity we have, maybe we should think first about what outcome we wish to achieve.

It is seductive to hear about another church who is doing a great ministry and their sanctuary is full on Sunday morning. And it is easy to want to mimic that ministry. However, just as we are all parts of the Body of Christ, each church also has its own unique mission and reach. We simply can’t do everything perfectly, and it is high time that we change the way we think about our activities as a church. We need to ask ourselves, “Does this fit our mission?” And if it does, do we have the resources and passion to make it a reality. We are all busy people, and even with the best intentions, without putting them into action we become little more than banging gongs or clanging cymbals.

May we follow God’s leading in our lives and have not only good intentions, but awesome energy!