Several years ago the leaders of our church decided to change its name to Hollywood Community Church (HCC). Although that name isn’t necessarily compelling or eye popping, it does perfectly demonstrate who we are and what God has called us to do. At HCC we have a tremendous passion for the Gospel to make a difference in our city. That passion drives us to look for ways to serve those who live in our surrounding neighborhoods. Quite frankly, we do not always do a good job, but our name reminds us every day of our purpose. Of course, every church does not need to be called a community church, but every church should be impacting its community.
In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus commands the Church (Big “C”) to be salt and light. Those are not just clever metaphors. They should be functional realities. Both salt and light effect change. Salt purifies, sanitizes and preserves life, while light penetrates the darkness. What a beautiful illustration of what we have been called to do.
Notice that our light shines brightly, not just through the message that we preach, but also through the works that we do (v. 16). No doubt the proclamation of the Gospel is necessary, powerful and life changing, but the “good works” of the Gospel are what transform communities.
There is a two-fold blessing for the church that serves its community. First of all, your community service will make a difference! As we mentioned, you will be salt and light. You will effect change. At HCC, we love to give groceries to “food deprived” families. We get an enormous blessing out of finding a home for a homeless single mom or paying a bill for a veteran in a financial crisis. Those are huge wins for us.
Apart from the impact community service makes in the lives of your neighbors, there is a second blessing. Not only will your community be blessed, but your church family will be impacted as well. Community service does not just help others; it helps you too! Here are a few internal rewards that your church will reap through community service.
Community service will unify the church.
It is amazing how petty problems, ministerial disagreements and personality conflicts disappear when you take your focus off of yourself and place it on the needs of others. A church that is not looking outward will look inward. A congregation that is not broken by the needs of its neighbors will soon be bound by the grumbling of its members.
Community service will create a culture of generosity.
One of the greatest ways to promote generosity among your people is for them to hear, see and feel the brokenness of their community. Remind them that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Challenge them with the thought that God has blessed them not to store up but to share with others.
Community service will result in evangelism opportunities.
As you meet the physical needs of your community, they will turn to you with their spiritual needs. We know that our neighbors need Jesus more than anything else, but often their immediate needs blind them from their spiritual need. Although many in our community are not interested in the Gospel, I am often astounded at how a kind word, a caring action or a small gift can soften a hard heart.
I would challenge you to look for ways for your church to be missionally involved in your community. As I mentioned, that looks different for every church. Some congregations strongly emphasize foster parenting initiatives, while others have feeding ministries. Some churches get actively involved in their area schools, while others lovingly reach out to the homeless, veterans, widows or single moms in their community. What are the needs of your area? Who is in desperate need of compassion, assistance and the Gospel? Investigate, pray and connect with your neighbors. Allow God to let your light shine so bright that your community will see your good works and glorify you Father in heaven.
Brian Burkholder is senior pastor at Hollywood Community Church. Follow his blog at site.ourhcc.org/category/pastorsblog/