If I were to ask you how relevant your church is, within your local community, what would be your reply? Do you have evidence that your church is relevant to them in 2021 and onwards? On a scale of 1-10, how much engagement do you have with your local community?
Influence and impact
In assessing the efficacy of our church in the community, the words ‘influence’ and ‘impact’, are crucial. Generally, our level of influence is revealed by the people we are able to engage with, and those we form working partnerships with, to deliver our outreach initiatives. Impact can be measured by sustainable societal changes. Both influence and impact are key in auditing and evaluating our interventions.
Responding to current issues
‘Relevance’ is measured by our response as a church to current issues (both nationally and internationally) and how we work with the community to support them through challenges. Also, when ‘non-church’ individuals turn to us for help in times of need, the church becomes ‘relevant’ to them, especially if what we have to offer meets their needs.
During the pandemic and particularly during the lockdown, several of our churches responded in practical ways, meeting the needs of the community.
Our churches may have been closed for our regular services, but thankfully, we were not closed to compassion and care, filling the deficits COVID-19 left in its wake.
The community response
“Your help has been lifesaving. Not sure what we would have done without the wonderful meals you provide for us each day. We are extremely grateful.” The gentleman’s eyes filled with tears as he shared these words with me. He was one of the community recipients of the ‘RESTORATION Convalescence Project’ I initiated during the pandemic for individuals negatively impacted by COVID-19. He had reported that his family “had a rough time with the virus”. As a result, they had been left very unwell and unable to cater adequately for themselves.
Another grateful response from a lady whose family members struggled through several months of illness, following their COVID-19 diagnosis, said, “Thank you so much for caring for us! We really appreciate the tasty hot meals and the weekly shopping box. It has kept us going! The emotional and spiritual wellbeing literature were excellent. We can’t thank you enough!.”
We also received several requests for more religious literature.
Of the numerous feedback from diverse individuals receiving help from the BUC RESTORATION Convalescence project, some were from people who had no religious beliefs. Yet, they stated that once our churches reopen, they would like to visit and worship with us! Several are also requesting Bible studies. We rejoice over these positive testimonies and pray for God’s continued leading in the lives of these individuals.
In highlighting the role of the church in the community, Ellen White says:
“Some think that if they give money to this work, it is all they are required to do; but this is an error. Donations of money cannot take the place of personal ministry. It is right to give our means, and many more should do this; but according to their strength and opportunities, personal service is required of all….As you visit your friends and neighbors, show an interest in their spiritual as well as in their temporal welfare.”*1
I applaud the work of all our churches who exemplify this commission, as they demonstrate their relevance to a needy world.
*1. The Role of the Church in the Community – Ellen. G. White