Karis Church is about to make a radical change in how we handle community and outreach. In just one week we are dropping our current small group model and starting what is becoming known as Missional Communities (MCs).
Quite frankly, I’m freaked out.
Or rather I was, until a conversation with my friends, Kevin and Susan, in Virginia. Let me share their story with you:
For Valentine’s Day, their church usually has a nice dinner and invites all the church couples. They eat dinner, play the not-so-newlywed game, and generally have a good time. Not this year. No, this year they decided to have the same dinner but instead purposefully invite people who could not afford a Valentine’s Day dinner out. Everyone spread the word and a handful of people signed up to attend. Discouraged, they started asking around their city and got connected with a woman who had a relationship with people living in a lower-income neighborhood.
Armed with her name as a point of entry, they were able to invite people to their dinner and ended up with about 35 people showing up. If you go to a large church, 35 people might not sound like a lot; but if you attend a church that barely has 35 people as members – that’s huge!
After the dinner my friends met this woman who had helped them get connected. They wanted to reach into this neighborhood and start to really get to know people in the neighborhood. To build relationships and share the gospel. She not only took them into the neighborhood to introduce them to people she knew; but she also gave them practical advice on how to build relationships with them.
The most striking advice they received was to never go in to a lower-income neighborhood to share the gospel without taking something tangible to fill a need. There are so many needs; find one that you can fulfill. A loaf of bread, a pair of shoes – something that will help immediately. Her advice was to show that you care about those physical needs, and then share the gospel.
In a similar vein, you feed the starving man some bread before you tell him about Jesus, the bread of life.
Back to the story – Kevin & Susan started scouring garage sales for shoes and clothes to give away in this neighborhood. They heard of a young mom who was house-bound with two children, found a double seater stroller at a yard sale, and gave her the freedom to walk to the store. They loaded up the car with candy and handed it out as fast as they could as the children surrounded their car.
They now load kids up in their van for a visit to their own house on Friday nights. Susan reported how amazing it’s been as God stretches their food budget to feed so many. They have found deals that seemed incredible, but allowed them another large meal to feed all the kids. The change in the children’s demeanor is noticeable, too. Boys who are very protective of a younger sister relax at Kevin & Susan’s house. It is suspected that there are drug dealers in their own home that have made them so protective of her. They know she’ll be safe at least for these few hours on a Friday evening, so they can let their guard down.
Now, Susan says, when she pulls into the parking lot, the first child to see her yells out, “Miss Susan’s here!” And she braces herself, because she is literally tackled on all sides from kids racing to give her a hug. Two little brothers who have become dear to her heart even gave her a Mother’s Day card.
There’s been an amazing change in the church members as well. For some time the church talked about wanting to do something to reach outside of their doors, but no one seemed to know how to get started or had the initiative to make things start happening. However once the ball started rolling, people in the church got excited. More are now stepping up to serve than had ever served before! The Wednesday night Bible Study had 7-10 people attending. They finally stopped it altogether because of activities with people from the neighborhood. Now they have roughly 15 people helping them on Wednesday nights with the neighborhood kids! They are seeing men stepping up to lead and mentor boys, women reaching out to women – it’s awesome the way God is moving!
This is incredible; but I know these people. They’re great people; but they are just normal people. They’d be the first ones to say that they’re nobody important. I remember the day Susan got baptized and how nervous she was. Now I look at her, amazed at all that God has done and continues to do through her! So if God can take a couple of normal people and do all this, well, I guess I need to trust that he can take me and what little I have to offer and use me.
So, to answer the title question: Who, me? Apparently, yes! And, who, you? Again, a resounding, yes!
If you attend Karis, get excited with me. THIS is what we’re on the verge of seeing in our communities! God will use all of us who are willing to step out and start doing something. We go out in his power and with his spirit. He’ll do the work.
For anyone outside of Karis, take a look around your own community. What one thing can you start doing now to reach outside of your church circle and start making a difference in the world around you? Don’t wait for your church to start a program, grab a friend and the two of you – go! And if you don’t think you can do that, start to pray for your community and for God to move. Pray for him to help you to be bold enough to build a relationship with at least one person with whom you can share the love of God.
As stated by my soon-to-be former small group leader:
Are you all in with me? I’d love to hear you share your story in the comments.