Sunday morning, with all its frantic dressing, hasty home exits, family herding, and other miscellaneous attempts to arrive at the service on time and presentable can sometimes take on a hazy focus that is turned more inward than we would necessarily like to admit. The questions streaming through our minds take on a strange, myopic twist as we wonder: What will I wear? Where will I sit? Will the worship engage me and the sermon speak to me? Will I make it home in time for kickoff?
Does Church exist to make us feel good about ourselves and help us develop a wider social circle, or was it perhaps meant to be more?
What if we started out our Sunday’s with a different set of questions, something more along these lines: Who can I minister to today? Is my heart prepared for worship? What does God have to speak to me through this sermon? How can I encourage my pastor?
I believe that the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, is a great clue into how Jesus views the work of the church, and of the church goers. It states:
“And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, “All power is given unto Me in Heaven and on earth.
19Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,
20teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Amen.”
There isn’t very much inward focus here – the whole point is to get up, to move out, to find people outside of where you are right now and share the Good News with them. It may come in the form of easy opportunity, or it may come in the form of difficult, oppressive, sharing, but however it comes, we must, as believers, take an active role in going out and sharing.
Recently, I had the pleasure of communicating with St. Lawrence Community Church, which is implementing a start-up program they have named “Daily Bread Ministries”. If the name seems familiar, you may have come across a Daily Bread devotional before. These are small booklets that contain a daily devotional reading, along with an assigned scripture for the day. Lots of churches offer them in the foyer area, and you can also opt to receive them via the mail.
The Community Church in St. Lawrence, however, decided to use them in a new way, and to pair the spiritual food with its physical counterpart.
One Sunday a month, during the Sunday School hour, interested adults and youth pair up and go out into the community. They take with them a Daily Bread devotional and a literal loaf of bread, often fresh baked at a local bakery. The pairs are encouraged to visit either someone they know that may not be able to make it out to church, or a new home that the Lord has laid on their heart.
The people who live in these homes cross a wide spectrum, from the elderly widowed shut-in to the family with more kids to feed than money in the paycheck. There are men and women, believers and non-believers, hungry and fed.
They’ve yet to have anyone turn down a loaf of bread, and there have been heart touching encounters in which church members have been invited into homes to pray, to visit, and to build relationships.
Not because the church invested thousands into an advertising campaign. Not because of crazy worship lighting and full bands, or all the newest technological equipment, or a full coffee bar – but because the Body of Christ picked up the Bread of Christ and they went out into their world to encounter the people that Christ Himself came to love and to offer Himself for.
Opportunity is everywhere – Christ’s people are everywhere. Go out and find them. Talk to them. Pray for them. Love them.
*The concept of “Daily Bread Ministries” was laid on the heart of Darrelyn Tutt, and implemented with the full blessing of the Pastor and Board of St. Lawrence Community Church.
It’s a word that most of us have heard, but not many of us have truly experienced. We imagine it’s difficult, but if we’re truly honest, it’s not something that deeply affects us, which means it’s not something we think about too often.
For others, though, it’s a daily way of life that has all too often resulted in broken families, dead end jobs, addictions, and hopelessness. The face of poverty is a father too ashamed to come home, because he knows his family is hungry and he doesn’t have any money. A single mother, leaving her kids with a relative “just one more time”, because her only way to make money is on the streets. Its teenagers, unsupervised and hurting, turning to drugs and gangs to feel they belong, and to block out the emptiness around them.
Perhaps the most painful face of poverty is that of children, too young to understand the concept of money, but old enough to grasp that there is never enough to get by. Divided homes, foster care, being raised by an aunt, a grandma, or even a family friend, these kids learn to get by with what they can, and not to expect too much.
There can be a positive side found in this; resilience, perseverance, and inner strength are often best cultivated through adversity. But there are many, many downsides that are often difficult to overcome. The lack of continuity and stability, especially for children, can create a void that is often filled with negative inputs, and peer pressure is even more difficult to resist.
Not necessarily a word you might expect to find in the midst of an inner city neighborhood riddled with poverty, but it is there, fueled by the residents who refuse to give up, and by those who have a heart to bring the light of Christ into situations that may seem hopeless.
One such bringer of light is known as Antioch Ministries, and this is their explanation of who they are and what they do:
“We hope to empower and connect neighbors in North Minneapolis to encourage youth in their development as leaders. Antioch is a place where people come together to support the youth of North Minneapolis. The ways that we empower and connect people is through:
1. Sharing meals together
2. Discovering Jesus together
3. Navigating school together
4. Having fun together
When people come together in these areas, trusting relationships begin to develop. When we start to trust one another, we will be able to provide a blanket of support for the youth in our community. To encourage them, to show that God has a specific purpose for them right here, and right now.
We have weekly programs that give youth ages 6-16 a place to grow and be encouraged in what they are doing. We plan to support them in their God-given gifts, provide a place for food and fun, and help them navigate life and school. Parents, neighbors, and caring adults will help provide this support.
Our current programs include a weekly Wednesday night gathering at 1415 Oliver Ave. Nand a Thursday evening programat 2811 Fremont Ave. N. The Fremont program is from 5:30pm-7:30pm on Thursdays.”
When I first encountered Antioch Ministries I was a freshman in college, straight off the farm, and having my first experience in a metro area. The only time I had even been in a poverty stricken area of the city was when we had gotten lost going to a wedding once, and that was short lived, as you can imagine.
For one semester, I was blessed to go to the first Antioch house weekly and spend time with the kids. I prepared for dinner, read books, played games, answered homework questions, and helped lead a small Bible study group. A few little girls offered to do my hair for me, and pronounced me “tender headed” when I couldn’t stand up to the rigorous braiding process they were attempting.
Most of all, I was overwhelmed; things were louder, dirtier, and more chaotic than I was accustomed to. During home visits I was shocked by how many kids could tumble out of one house, by the fact that there were no books anywhere in sight, and that small children were playing unsupervised on sidewalks that I, as a 19 year old college student, wouldn’t have dared to travel alone.
Life was very different there. Yet, in so many ways, it was (and is) very much the same. Kids love mac n’ cheese. They want to be held when they fall down. They appreciate getting undivided attention, they absolutely love being noticed, and as they turn into young adults they crave adult affirmation and guidance. Everyone needs someone to walk with them through life, and these kids are no exception.
Antioch provides a safe place, in the form of a regular neighborhood house, for these kids to come and be loved on, laughed with, fed, and supported. They learn about God, they get help with homework, and they experience, first hand, that they are loved for, cared about, and wanted. As they grow into young adulthood, leaders at Antioch continue to walk alongside them, with a heart to see them develop into young leaders within their communities and schools. The program is empowering, life giving, and a blessing to all who are involved, whether youth, parents, or volunteers.
If you are interested in learning more about Antioch Ministries, or perhaps donating to their cause, you can connect with them via their website antiochnorth.com.
(There are currently two Antioch houses with open doors in North Minneapolis. The vision of the mission is to one day expand to 15 houses spread throughout the community.)
Imagine your commute to work, or school, or the grocery store. Anywhere you tend to drive on a regular basis. Now tell me how many churches you pass on that drive. Honestly, I live in a large metro area and I couldn’t even begin to give you a number. Lets just say it’s a lot. Odds are, you’re in the same situation, and you hardly even notice all those churches, unless you happen to be looking for a new one to attend. Rest assured, however, you will always have options, and your community will always have the benefit of an active faith community. Anyone seeking a Godly influence has only to choose what door to walk into, and they will be met with open arms.
Now I want you to imagine a commute in which you did not see a single church. Well, maybe one, but it’s closed. There is no pastor at community events. Weddings, funerals, and baptisms have to be held out of town, and it’s quite a drive to attend church in a different community each week. Anyone not currently dedicated to attending services is rather unlikely to make the drive to go to a church they’ve never attended.
If you live in a rural community it may be you’ve already experienced this. Many small towns across America are struggling, and congregations find that they cannot support a full time minister, which often eventually leads to the church closing its doors.
This is where Village Missions comes in. The organization exists to “glorify Jesus Christ by developing spiritually vital churches in rural North America”, and as part of this mission they work with churches and missionary pastors to provide full time pastoral care and open church doors in communities that may not have access to a Bible believing church or minister without their help.
Intrigued? You should be! 25% of America’s next generation of parents (18-29 year olds) currently do not claim any religious affiliation. North America is currently the only continent in which Christianity is not growing. Many news articles have recently been examining the difficulties faced by rural communities due to the lower populations and hard economic times, and these challenges are being felt within church bodies as well. In declining congregations that may consist of only 10-20 faithful few, there may not be enough capital to support a full time pastor and his family.
Possibly the best way to explain the impact a missional pastor can have on their community is to let you read their stories. http://www.village-missions.org/about/stories/
Perhaps one of the most exciting new developments at Village Missions right now is based on discipling church goers and pastors alike through intensive study. Contenders Bible School is a tuition free program that allows pastors to disciple those in their churches as they study Biblical truth. The course is set up as a two year, once a week program. Class topics include Old & New Testament, Pastoral Ministry, Communications, and Systematic Theology. The classes are combined with discipleship and mentoring that is designed to develop Christians into leaders in their churches and communities. Contenders has existed for years, and is led by Pastor Ron Sallee of Machias Community Church, but this is the first time there will be a concerted effort to introduce the program on a more widespread level in Village Missions churches. Prayers and financial contributions would surely be a blessing as they continue to set the groundwork for this exciting new initiative.
For the inquiring mind that just has to know how it all works….
In a nutshell, churches must be able to pay their own bills and provide housing for a missionary pastor in the form of parsonage or rental. The missionary completes the Village Missions application and training process, and is then assigned to the church. Salary is based on a sliding scale, and Village Missions works with the church to pay the base rate. Missionaries also raise support to help them offset costs. Once at the church, the missionaries are encouraged to take part in Fellowship groups with other VM ministers, and are also supported by Regional Directors, all of whom have served in the pastoral capacity with Village Missions. Aside from regular church and pastoral duties, Village Missions requires all missionaries to spend at least 50% of their time in the community, ensuring that there is active involvement and participation by a missionary within the community.
If you are interested in blessing Village Missions with a financial contribution, desire to learn more about becoming a missionary, or would just like to connect with someone to learn more, you can check them out on FB (search Village Missions), the web (www.village-missions.org) or connect with Tim Griffiths, Director of Stewardship, at [email protected]
Many thanks go out to Tim Griffiths for taking the time to sit down and chat with me about who Village Missions is and what they do!
© 2020 El-Inkwell.