Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Faith in Action Day

NOTE: This article will also run in the September issue of The Westbury Word, our print newsletter. If you don't currently receive the Word and would like to, please call our office at 713-723-6428.

On Saturday, October 17, 1998, a huge rainstorm caused devastating flooding along the Guadalupe River in South Central Texas. Towns like New Braunfels, Seguin, Victoria, and Cuero experienced incredible amounts of damage to homes and businesses. At the time, I was pastor of First Baptist Church in Stockdale. Although our town was far enough away from the river to escape the flooding, we all knew people who had lost everything. The next morning, we had church as usual. The floods were mentioned and prayed about in our Sunday School classes. I may have mentioned the subject before my sermon…I don’t really remember. But that was about it.

A little while later, I had a conversation with an old friend. Bob had been my Sunday School teacher in my teen years, and was still my insurance agent. He said, “I think it’s a shame that churches had worship on October 18. We should have cancelled services all around this area so we could help our neighbors drag their wet carpet and furniture out of their houses, and help them find places to stay.” He was right. We missed a great opportunity that day. We could’ve shown our un-churched neighbors that Jesus cares about them. Instead, we gave the impression that Jesus hides in a church building when things get tough. Of course, that wasn’t our intention…we were just doing what we’d always done on a Sunday morning.

In a way, that’s the point behind Faith in Action Day, October 11. We’ll be cancelling worship and Sunday School that day so that we can all be involved in ministry in our community. Our website has a section dedicated to this, or you can call the church office to learn more. For years, Christians have operated under the assumption that if we built a nice building, hired a good preacher, and had good programs, people would come flooding in. If that approach ever worked, it doesn’t work anymore. We can’t expect people to come to us. We must go to them. My prayer for Faith in Action Day is that we would show our friends and neighbors the love of Christ in a way they can truly feel, and that we would learn that we can’t just go to church…we must BE the Church. I hope and pray that it becomes so much a part of our church’s mentality, our ministry DNA, that whenever tragedy or hardship strikes our community, we are the first to respond. That’s the way Christ would want us to be. Please pray for this event, and prayerfully decide soon which ministry opportunity you and your family will participate in on October 11.


Anonymous said...

What about when heartache and tragedy strike the local body of believers? After all, doesn't scripture say, "See how they love ONE ANOTHER?"

Can you, by way of illustration, say in a sermon, name one instance of someone in your congregation ministering quietly to the family of someone in your congregation in a consistent way, involving self sacrifice over an extended period of time -- I mean really getting involved with someone who really needs the help?

That would show me a whole lot more than doing some one shot community project that no one will even remember in a couple of years, not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just that the former is more genuine AND more Biblical and it's more from the heart.

It just seems to me that if a person wants love and concern from a congregation, the worst thing they could do would be to become a member.

Just my observation.

Jeff Berger said...

I appreciate what you've said here. Based on your last paragraph, it sounds like you've experienced a lack of loving concern on the part of your fellow believers in an hour of your need. If you're a member of my church, I am so very sorry we failed. Please feel free to come talk to me anytime if you want.

You are right in several ways. A church is supposed to "rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep." We are called to bear one another's burderns. In Acts 6, it was the way the church managed to feed all of their widows, averting a division in the church in the process, that brought many outsiders to faith. So, yes, loving one another IS more important than some "one shot community project."

But the two aren't mutually exclusive. We can love one another AND love those outside the church. In fact, we MUST do both.

The ultimate sign of Christian character and discipleship is to love God with all of our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves. At WBC, we try to picture this as three separate things: Love God (worship), love each other (community), love those outside the church (outreach). Part of the reason why we're doing Faith in Action Day is that, in my opinion, we are much better at the first two than we are the third. Are we perfect at worship and at caring for one another? No, we've still got a lot of room to grow in both areas. But we're exceptionally weak at reaching out to our community, and so Faith in Action is intended to stir in our hearts a desire to do this more and more.

Yes, I can name many instances of people in our congregation who have ministered quietly and effectively and sacrificially to others in the congregation. Often, I don't tell such stories because I don't want to invade the privacy of the family being helped, or embarrass the person doing the helping. But that is one great thing about being the pastor--I get to see our people do a lot of incredibly Christlike stuff that never gets publicized. As we grow, I think we'll see that kind of thing happen more and more.

Again, if you'd like to talk more about this, PLEASE don't hesitate to email or call me.


Anonymous said...

I've actually been present where wrong choices were made in this regard -- not at your church, but all of them do it. People were willing to meet a need, and told to "do it at the local mission." There were plenty of people providing that population the service that was offered, but nothing for those in need of it in the congregation itself, and as far as I know, there still isn't in that place -- pathetic!

My advice to Christians is LOOK for REAL needs, organize YOURSELVES, without asking ANYONE -- just DO IT if it needs to be done, in order of REAL priority.
Heart attacks get treated faster than common colds! If you honestly do this and have any time left for alot of "churchy" stuff, I'll be surprised. There are ALOT of ministry opportunities out there if you just open your eyes to them. Getting away from all the non-sense has turned out to be the most rewarding thing I've ever done. Anyone is welcome to join me. Start TODAY!