A Story. A Shaping of My Ministry

“If it weren’t for those __________ churches…”

I will never forget that statement.

I was in my mid-twenties, serving on a board of the local non-profit. We were discussing how we could raise more support for the organization. I had participated most of my working career (which was obviously short at that point), financially contributing personally and helping them raise funds. Every year we had the same discussion. How could we raise more money to do more good?

In the middle of our discussion, a greatly respected and leading businessman in our community made that statement. “If it weren’t for those _______churches we would have plenty of money. All churches do is take from the community, serve their own interests, and rob the community of needed money for charity.” The room instantly echoed and agreed with his bold remark. I was young and intimidated, so I said nothing.

Honestly, however, those words stung. As an active member of one of the largest church in town, I didn’t believe anything he was saying. Our church, along with most churches in our community, were doing good things to help people. If all we did was change people’s lives and send better people back into the community, we would be doing good things, but there were many church-connected ministries helping people in our city. Not to mention, many of the top contributors to this organization were active members of some of those same churches. (I was one of them.)

I never forgot those words though. It shaped me and my view of ministry.

Years later, when God placed the dream on my heart to plant a church in my hometown, I knew some of what that church would look like. Not that I seek the approval of man, but I wanted to be a part of a church that reversed that paradigm some have from the outside looking into the church. I wanted to be part of a church that would truly make a difference in our community, so much so that if we were gone, people would miss us.

One of the first things we did as a church was to partner with our city to reach some low income, impoverished areas of the community. For the past several years, once a year, we have put together as many as 1,400 people to invest in people outside the walls of our church. We sent over 800 people into our schools to meet the requests of principals in teachers completing things their budgets couldn’t afford to do. We participated with local radio stations to gather thousands of pounds of food for the poor. We’ve helped to launch a ministry to homeless people and one to military wives. We’ve been consistently called upon by our community to help with local festivals and events, and even by our mayor to help in flood recovery efforts.

My wife, who works in a local credit union and is active in the community is frequently asked, “Are you part of that church that’s always helping people?” We love that question. We both get it often.

I think our intentional investment is one of the primary reasons our church has grown into one of the fastest growing churches in America in a little over 6 years.

Please understand, I’m not trying to brag about what we are doing. I believe other churches are making a huge difference in their community; certainly many more than ours. I simply want to encourage any church I lead to show our city the love of Jesus and maybe even encourage your church (and mine) to do more. I think we have a better chance of reaching our cities for Christ if they know we care. The more we get out of our buildings and meet real needs, the more we’ll have opportunities to share the hope we know is in Christ.

In my time at Grace, we’ve tried to be intentional about letting our community know we love them…and so far…it is working. I’ve got a new assignment in ministry ahead and in my discussions so far, I’m encouraging this church also to greatly invest in it’s community.

Share with me. What is your church doing to display the love of Christ to your community in a practical way?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • HtmlSymbol says:

    I like the face on that one. They did a much better job on this model's bracelet.

  • Kmac4him

    That was really good. I know that in the last 10 years or so God has been changing the heart of His Bride, moving us more outward than inward. It is so needed. Our church does a lot of really cool "Love Loud" things. One most recently was too cool. We lost a fire captain in a tragic accident while putting out a fire set by someone on purpose in a large building. It saddened the whole community. They were offered the use of our church for the funeral and they used it. Since then, we began to realize just how much our "civil servants" are not thanked or appreciated. So this past "Love Loud" project the church set up in the city square in front of the court house a huge barbeque and fed them and their families with much gratitude expressed to them. It was sweet.

  • Joe Lalonde says:

    That is awesome that you helped plant a church that is known as helping others. What greater testimony is there?

    Our church is more of a healing place. Where the broken and disenfranchised can come and be cared for.

    Above and beyond that, we help by having a food pantry for the local neighborhood, care for widows and orphans, and more.

    One of the things that shocks me is how many people think churches do nothing other than take in money for themselves. But this comes from the outside where they're not seeing what happens. They don't see how money is used, just that it is taken.

    I often wonder how we can change that perception when it's so ingrained in the minds of people.

    • ronedmondson says:

      And I'm sure some of that feeling will always be there. It's part of the culture we battle against. Sharing our stories more often can't help. I've seen God do amazing things in people's lives. Miracles still happen.Thanks!

  • Melissa says:

    Since I'm a relatively new attendee at Grace, I see loads of God's love being spread throughout the Clarksville-Montgomery county area. At the much more traditional downtown church that I also attend, it is just that…much more traditional (within the local community) but through the middle-TN Catholic Charities, do wonderful things for a very broad area.

    The SERVE project at Grace is awesome and gets so many involved. It lets everyone from young to old see that maybe weeding a garden at a school (God's simple beauty) to an overhaul remodel at an elderly person's home (necessary God kindness of helping our fellow man) and is a blessing for us to help out in all situations. People in action for God's world is awesome. It will be exciting to read how Immanuel will do new things for the community.

    There is such a difference between signing off on a check to help and actually getting one's hands dirty for community projects…now that is sweat equity!

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