When it comes to the local church, times sure 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?
A ministry leader once said to me, "We are a church, not a social program." He was right that we absolutely should be making disciples who love God. But we also need to love people and serve the world.
I don't know about you, but some days I think it would be easier if we 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 in the comfort of my own home. I can love people by baking them cookies and comforting them when they are feeling blue. And I can serve the world by giving my money away to organizations that are doing great work.
As believers, it's important to see that loving God must be our starting point, and allow what we do to flow from that. 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.“
So the question remains: how much time should the local church 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.
As a church we are committed to our neighbours. Calvary provides free space for an after school group called Chillzone, for a midweek playgroup for parents who are newer to the area or who want support, and for a parenting course run by Halton Region. We also are involved in coordinating a Food For Life program, and we provide space and support for community endeavours such as North BurLINKton, Healthy Kids Community Challenge, partnerships with Halton Police, and more. We don't tell you this to pump ourselves up, rather we want you to understand that Calvary is extensively involved in the community for Jesus' sake.
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.