Recently, I have been reflecting on a question that people have asked me in the past. It is a question that I have asked churches since, and one that I like to revisit every once in a while. The question is this: If your church were to disappear tomorrow, what would your community miss? Now nobody really wants to think about our church disappearing, but that is not really the point of the question. The point of the question is to get church members to slow down and think about the impact their ministry has on the life of those outside its walls. I believe it is a good question to ponder from time to time.
As I write this, the church is buzzing with activity as people prepare the church to open its doors once again as the only cold weather warming shelter in Beaufort County. I can still smell the delicious aroma of the chicken noodle soup our youth cooked and served just yesterday in order to raise over $1,000.00 to support the ministry of HELP of Beaufort. On the same afternoon, some of those same youth went to the home of a church member to help cut up a limb that had fallen on their roof. I have also just sent out the applications for our youth summer mission trip to Wateree, SC with Salkehatchie Summer Service. In just over two weeks, the community will be invited to a joyful concert where our predominately white congregation joins the predominately black congregation of Bethesda Christian Fellowship to worship and praise God together – a powerful sign in our divided world. While this list is hardly exhaustive, I personally believe there are quite a few things our community would miss if SIPC disappeared tomorrow.
Some may read this and think that I am bragging or tooting our church’s horn. Those same people might be quick to remind me that “Pride comes . . . before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 CEB). After all, the Apostle Paul reminds me that the one who boasts should boast in the Lord! Good points, to be sure, but I challenge the notion that I am bragging or being puffed up about our church and the ministry God exercises through us.
I actually believe the Bible encourages us to ask ourselves what our neighbors would miss if we were gone. The Bible is the Word of God. But did it ever strike you that very little of text in the Bible features God as the solo actor in the story? Virtually all of the Bible records the actions and relationships of people – God’s people – and yet we still believe that the Bible is God’s story. God is definitely in relationship with us. The Bible shows us that from almost the very beginning, people understood who God is and how God works by retelling the stories of God’s presence and work in particular situations. Those people probably wondered what their lives would have been like if God had not been an active and moving presence in their lives, relationships, and circumstances. That wondering must have led them do two things: worship God for being God, and telling others about the amazing things that God had done for them (hence, we get the Bible, which includes a lot of worship texts, namely the Psalms).
The good, the bad, and the ugly shows up in the Bible. People in the Bible, for the most part, were honest with themselves and with each other. They knew that God’s purpose for them was bigger than themselves, their egos, and their failures. By sharing their stories of how they witnessed God at work, they could help others see and experience God for themselves. They did not boast – they shared, they pointed, they invited, they shouted, “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8).
As you think about what our community would miss if our church were to disappear tomorrow, what comes to mind? What do you see God doing through our church? Please, please, please share that answer. Tell me, tell others, the story about how you see God at work, about how God is using our church. Celebrate what God is doing by giving God worship, and share the story of what you experience God doing. Your willingness to share what you see may be the word of God someone needs to hear.