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Which One: Church or Community?

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.

Candi Thorpe

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