November 2, 2009

So what DO we have to Offer the Community?

Last week I mentioned that I had been invited to the local community council meeting (this Tuesday night) to answer the question:

What does Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church have to offer the community of Pleasant Ridge?

It occurred to me, as I prepared to answer that query, that I wondered what you all would say if asked a similar question about your church. Each church is different, to be sure. But is there a basic answer that any church ought to be able to give to such a question? What is it that PRBC wants to be and do for the communities of Pleasant Ridge and beyond? And what should your church want to be and do for your neighborhood and city? Over the next two weeks, I’m going to fill you in on what I am planning to say … trusting that God will give you opportunities, too, to tell others what the church is all about. Here is what I want to say:

“We want to offer our community the very same kinds of things that the very first Christian church offered their community in Jerusalem. We want to build on their history. The biblical book of Acts tells us their story … how they were a blessing to the community. How did they do it? I think a summary answer can be found in Acts 2.42: “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. These four values, each of which is two-thousand years old, are what we still hope to offer to our neighbors today …

1. The apostles’ teaching. The earliest Christians dedicated themselves to studying, believing, applying, and sharing with their neighbors what they learned from Jesus’ closest followers. What these men taught, we have in the form of the Holy Bible. So that would be the first thing that our church wants to offer this community … THE BIBLE. We want every person in our neighborhood to have the opportunity to study it seriously and apply it to everyday life. After all, these words were (according to the apostle Paul, 2 Timothy 3.16) breathed out by God Himself. So they must be true, vital, and authoritative in our lives. And we want our community to know what they say. We want to be a Bible study center for our community … giving everyone from the smallest child to the oldest adult the chance to know what the Scripture actually say. We hope you’ll join us … and be blessed!

2. Fellowship. To put it simply, the earliest Christians were committed to being a real family. We read in Acts 2.44-46 that “those who believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.” They operated as one big family! Everyone’s needs were met. And we want to live that way, too! We want to be a FAMILY for those who need one.

A few examples of what that looks like in our contemporary setting:

*My family has been at PRBC for seven years and never once had to buy children’s clothing!
*A few years ago my grandmother died on a Sunday morning. Before our services were over, some of our church family had already gotten us plane tickets for the funeral (which we could have scarcely afforded on our own).
*Not long after that, my wife was very sick … and I was at work, leaving her with two kids to care for. But, thank God, one of our members showed up at the office and kindly told me to go home. Sometimes those are the kinds of things families need to do, too!

This is what we mean by family (and it’s not just my family that benefits from it!). This is the kind of fellowship we want to offer to those who live around us!”

I’ll give you the contents of the rest of my talk next week! In the meantime, please pray for this opportunity Tuesday night!

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