When it comes to the local church, times have changed. A few generations ago, the local church was a natural hub for the community – a connecting point – providing support and services to the entire neighbourhood. But in recent years many churches have struggled to balance gospel-centred ministries with community-centred programs. How much time should we give over to programs and events where the Word is not preached and there is no opportunity to come to Christ?
Several years ago, a ministry leader said to me, "We are a church, not a social program." Ouch. That’s a little harsh. He’s right though, we absolutely should be making disciples who love God. But we also need to love people and serve the world.
It would be so much easier if the Bible said, “Pick one - would you like to love God, love people, or would you prefer to serve the world?"
I can love God when I read my Bible, making notes in the margins and whispering “Amen!” at the encouraging parts. I can love people by making meals or talking to them when they are feeling blue. And I can serve the world by giving my money to organizations that are doing great work.
But in actual fact, for the Christ-follower, loving God comes first and the rest follows closely behind. You see it is out of the overflow of loving God that we love the people that He has placed in our lives. 1 John 4:19-21 says, “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.“ And because Jesus Christ lay down His life for those He loved, we also die to self and serve others.
As a church we are committed to our neighbours. Calvary provides free space for GirlZone, a group presented by Boys & Girls Club, plus a playgroup for parents who are newer to the country or who need support, and for the Halton Prenatal Program (HPNP) for expectant and new mothers.
A number of people from Calvary are involved in a community Food For Life program, and we provide space and support for community endeavours such as North BurLINKton Dinner Night Out and 55+ Lunch, partnerships with Halton Police, and more. At different times of the year we collect shoeboxes of toys, baby bottles of coins, and a variety of food and hygiene items for our community. We run movie nights, game nights, pizza nights, student hangouts... the list goes on.
We don't tell you this to pump ourselves up, rather to help you see that Calvary is extensively involved in our community on many different levels. What happens on a Sunday morning is exceedingly valuable, but it's just a piece of the puzzle that makes up our church calendar.
So the question remains - since we are a church, how much time should we give over to programs that are not Theocentric? For the answer we look to Scripture. 2 Corinthians 4:5 says, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.” Church, everything we do is God-centred because it begins with a love for Jesus and a desire to serve Him and the people He has placed in this community. We love others because we are loved, and we serve others because He served us and laid His life down for the church.
While we are not a social program or community centre, God has strategically placed us in the centre of the Mountainside community for a reason.
Curious about some of these things we've listed? Find out if you can drop in and see, or even if you can support some of the programs that are happening. Maybe GirlZone would like you to organize snack or teach a game. Dinner Night Out could need you to wash dishes or make coffee. You might be the ideal person to spearhead the next church BBQ or games night.
Love God? Love people? Serve the world? I’m thankful that we don’t have to pick just one. By God’s grace and through His love we have the privilege of engaging in all three.
As we came out of the house earlier this week, we were greeting by what I hope will be the last snow of the year. The temperatures are getting warmer and visitors are heading to the various Maple Syrup festivals with the promise of fresh syrup and pancakes.
Here’s a little window in your pastor - I love pancakes and fresh maple syrup.
There’s just something about the “maplely-sweetness” with a fresh cup of coffee that I love. I enjoyed accompanying Parker’s school class last spring to the sugar shack at Mountsberg. And while they didn’t serve pancakes, we did get a taste of fresh syrup.
An acquaintance of mine makes his own syrup. He lives on a piece of property outside London will a forest full of maple trees and he thought he would try his hand at making his own “maplely-sweet goodness”. But he is finding that the work is very intensive. He is not averse to hard work but did you know that it takes 40 litres of sap to make 1 litre of syrup? That’s a lot of trekking through the bush, hauling pails, and spending time boiling it down. Maple syrup is precious not only because of the taste but also because of the work involved in producing it.
This reminds me of the hard work of making relationships with people who don’t know Jesus….. yet. It takes a lot of time and energy to develop friendships and relationships that might eventually end up in some sort of spiritual conversation and gospel presentation.
Jesus said that we are to “make disciples” (Matt 28) as we are going about our life. But how can we be making disciples if we are not doing the work of being connected to people who might never know the powerful love of Jesus? I think we can become very complacent - and dare I say, spiritually lazy by just keeping to our safe little groups and never working, talking and sharing life with people who have never heard the message of Jesus. Jesus spent his time with people who didn’t know about God’s love for them – and he prioritized his time to be with those people and share the message of the Kingdom of God.
It might take less than a 40:1 ratio of relationships to spiritual conversations but the work is hard nonetheless. People need to know that they are loved and cared for before they will open up their hearts and minds to the significant questions that Jesus is asking us to ask of people.
So, let me close with a three questions to make us think today…
Are you committed to obeying Jesus command to “make disciples”? It all starts here… I talk a lot about this question here at Calvary but if we don’t believe it that we need to obey Jesus, then we can stop the discussion here.
But if you do believe it (and I really hope you do) , here’s a couple more questions….
Where are you intentionally finding time in your schedule to be with people who don’t know Jesus? This might require a change in your calendar and prioritize but it is worth it. Yes, it will be counter-cultural, especially when we need live by the ethics and values of the Kingdom, but we can live wisely without giving in to sin or unwise behaviour.
Are we asking people the right questions? It’s one thing to spend our time with people who don’t know Jesus but there is going to come a time where we are going to have to ask questions about spiritual life and eternity. Are you doing this? If we truly believe that issues of faith in Jesus are critical, we need to be asking these questions in love.
So, when you are enjoying your maple syrup this spring, think about the work that went into making it and then compare that work with working to build relationships with people who don’t know Jesus. By faith, when they do respond to the Gospel, the reward will be sweet and all the praise goes to Jesus to is at work in you and His church.
Pastor Aaron Groat
There are times in youth ministry where you “hang your hat”. When times are tough, you look to those moments, where you've hung your hat, and remember that what you're doing is good and important. Well, I am not in a slump right now, but I had one of those “hang your hat” moments at SnoCamp this year.
Spiritual temperature can be hard to gauge in youth ministry. Students don't always give you insight into their walk, and so, as youth ministry leaders, we try to gauge the spiritual health of our group in different ways. This was a big question for our ministry last fall, trying to gain some insight into the spiritual lives of our students. One of the things that came from that conversation was the desire to see our kids in God's Word. So, at the start of the year I challenged our kids to make 2019 the year they get to know God better. And to do that, I asked them to pick a book of the Bible, read it start to finish, then answer three questions:
- What does this book teach me about God?
- What does this book teach me about His plan?
- What do I do with it?
Once they completed their reading, and these questions, we'd go our for a coffee, or a snack, and discuss the book they just read. Well, if any of you have students, you know it can be hard to get them to do anything that involves reading. So, since I issued this challenge back at the start of January, I've been out with one of our students, and am in talks to grab a coffee with another, but it's been hard to gauge how the challenge is going. That is, until SnoCamp, one of those moments that I'm gonna “hang my hat” on.
We were sitting down on the Saturday night, after session, in our small groups. Saturday night is always the big message. That's your Gospel presentation, sometimes with altar call. It's a longer message, longer worship time, and it really works to create an atmosphere where teens can really engage with God. So during our small group time we were discussing the questions for that session, and out of that conversation I started to hear our students talk in a way I hadn't before. Simple phrases, but huge encouragement for me, and huge insight into their walk.
“I was reading in (insert book of the Bible here) that it says ...”
Maybe that doesn't seem like a lot to you, but wow did my heart start pumping! Actual audible proof that our students are reading the Bible! And it wasn't just one, I would hear this multiple times over the course of that weekend. It's a small thing, but it showed me that our students are getting to know God better, and you gotta smile at that, and I'm going to be hanging my hat on those moments. God is at work, and it's a privilege to be along for the ride.
When you see our students on Sunday, encourage them, and ask them what book they chose for the challenge. And if they don't have an answer, maybe recommend a book to them. What's your favourite book from the Bible? Which book taught you about God and his plan? Encourage our students to be in God's word. Or, if this is something you struggle with, then I challenge you to join our Student Ministries. Pick a book of the Bible, and answer the three questions above. I'd love to have a conversation about the book you read.
As always, thank you for the opportunity to serve our church in this way.
Mike Sanders, Youth Director at Calvary Baptist Church
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