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.
When I was in High School I attended a church that believed that when you were too old to attend Sunday School, you were just the right age to begin teaching Sunday School. By the time I hit grade 10, I was teaching a boisterous class of grade 4 boys in a big gymnasium crisscrossed with room dividers.
Words can’t describe the noise level. Each week I came, woefully unprepared, to teach Bible stories to those boys and hoped I was making some sort of a difference.
Recently I read Psalm 78 and reflected on those early days of teaching Bible stories in a gymnasium in Kitchener. You have to understand that Psalm 78 was written by Asaph; he had been appointed to pass on the stories of the marvellous deeds of God Almighty so that future generations would know and worship the Lord. But here’s the thing you'll notice when you read that Psalm: Asaph didn’t just tell the historical stories; he taught lessons about the goodness of God in the face of Israel’s repeated disobedience.
Stories and lessons? C’mon, what’s the difference?
Well, the facts of what happened in Israel’s past is the story, but why and how God responded is the lesson. The physical and spiritual acts performed by God to rescue his people is a story, but the impact of how we worship and serve a faithful God is the lesson.
Psalm 78:6-8 tells us that God established a testimony and law which we are commanded to teach to our children so that they in turn tell their children, so they will set their hope in God and not forget His works. Check it out:
He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.
And I think this goes beyond the value of just teaching stories to our own children – this is transferrable to the relationships we have with those who are spiritually younger as well. By knowing the law and testimony of God (the stories and the lessons), future generations will not harden their heart toward the Lord.
I confess that many times I have told the stories of God without teaching the lessons. Telling the story is easy, but teaching the lesson is hard because it means getting personal. It means examining my heart to ensure that God is doing a work there before I teach others about God wanting to do a work in their heart. It means being humble and teachable and vulnerable. It means ensuring that my testimony begins with God’s testimony. It means knowing with certainty that God is the hero of my story (both the parts in the past and the parts yet unwritten) before I try to teach anyone else that God also wants to be the hero of their story. I taught Bible stories for years before I realized that if the people don’t see how the lesson impacts me, they’ll never see how it can impact them.
You might be a Sunday School teacher or helper, or maybe you are influencing future believers in your family, workplace or your community. As you communicate God’s Word, remember that it is the lessons that draw people to set their hope in Christ.
I’d love to hear from you about the lessons God is teaching you. Let’s grab a coffee (or three!) and encourage each other with the marvellous works of the Lord.
Candi Thorpe, Director of Administration, Communication and Frontline Ministries
This past Sunday we talked in our service about Pregnancy Support Services of Hamilton. PSSH is a Christ-centred ministry which promotes life-affirming pregnancy options. They offer education, support and assistance to women and their partners as they face important decisions about pregnancy and sexual integrity. With PSSH clients receive pregnancy options counselling, post-abortion support, mentoring for both men and women, and Sexual Health and Relationship Education, plus there's an on-site baby boutique for infant wear and maternity clothes.
PSSH saw 250 new clients in 2017. Their services are free of charge, and they rely solely on donations to run their programming. One of the trends that they have observed is an increasing number of people who call from the Burlington and Oakville area who don't want or aren't able to travel into Hamilton. With this in mind, it has been on their hearts to expand their program into Burlington and Oakville to provide assistance to men and women in this area.
Formula 4 Hope is an opportunity for Calvary to partner with PSSH to help them raise money for their current clientele, and for their future site in Burlington/Oakville. We're asking each family to take a baby bottle home and to fill it with money. You can do this daily by filling it with whatever spare change you have in your pocket or purse at the end of each day, or you can do a one-time donation with paper money and/or cheques. Continue collecting until June, then return your filled baby bottles on Father's Day.
It's our tradition on Mother's Day and Father's Day, in lieu of giving small gifts to the men and women in the church, to donate those funds to an organization that is on the ground working with people in crisis. This year, in addition to the Formula 4 Hope baby bottles, Calvary is donating to PSSH on behalf of each man and woman who attends the church. In this way we can have the cumulative effect of seeing many small amounts add up to one big donation.
Please be generous; PSSH does so much great work in our area and it would be wonderful to see them continue to expand to meet the growing needs of our busy city. If you have any questions, please contact us, or visit PSSH online at www.preghamilton.ca
Each week we post about a range of things from the Christian life, faith and more.
In these posts we hope you'll catch a glimpse of ordinary people who serve an extraordinary God.