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November/December 2006 Issue

God Uses Willingness to Serve

By Ken Bellous

Churches come in all shapes and sizes, but in every case God can use the congregation that is willing to serve

The power of one can be significant. I recently talked to the pastor of a small church in a small town. Although the church did not have a Sunday school program, one young lad started attending the church with his mother.

The boy regularly sat quietly and did not make a fuss, but the pastor noticed and recruited a teacher to begin a class.

Both the boy and his mother were delighted. What’s more, by the end of the year another family with two children had started attending the church, thereby tripling the size of the class.

I was impressed with the courage of the pastor in her initiative and the effectiveness of beginning a class for one.

The power of many can be significant in a different way. Larger initiatives can happen when there are greater resources. A small video team from one congregation went to the streets of their city asking people questions such as: “Are you a spiritual person?” “Do you believe God exists?” “What’s wrong with religion?”

The answers were edited into a 15-minute summary and then presented to an evening church gathering for discussion. It helped people in the congregation to reflect on the mission of their church based on the real responses of people in their community. This initiative provided some momentum for a creative response to the needs that were expressed.

A key element in each of these examples is that the church is responding to its context.

Listening is an important skill. One young man, asked what he would say to a group of Christian leaders about how they could best connect with him, said: “First they need to listen to my questions and concerns. If they try to give answers before they know my questions, I’m not interested in listening to what they have to say.”

I love the title of an evangelism conference planned for January in Ontario: “Cross the Street.” It reminds me that across the street from me are people with different religious and cultural backgrounds and life experiences.

What an opportunity I have to step across that roadway and engage them with words and caring actions that demonstrate the love of God. Churches can also look out their windows to see who is there and ask how they can be of service.

It is important to note that our service needs to go far beyond what we say with words. Loving and compassionate action are also needed. James 2:17 reminds us that action demonstrates our faith. Issues of justice and being good stewards of our world and environment may be the service calling for some. We are invited to join with God in responding to each person and all creation with love and dignity.

Encouraging healthy, mission-minded churches is part of the mission of our Baptist Convention (regional group of churches). By encouraging congregations to look and listen to the needs of people around them, we can help them become more effective at reaching out.

Each congregation is unique and has connections with people whom other churches may not be able to reach. Our family of churches worships in 26 different languages each week. People need to participate in a voice and style that speaks to their need. We celebrate the diversity that makes possible a wider network of connections.

In your context, whom do you see? Whose voice do you hear? What needs become evident to you? How will you and your congregation respond?

Ken Bellous is executive minister of the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec. It is based in Etobicoke, Ont., and includes about 360 churches. This article continues a series of columns from the leaders of denominations affiliated with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, which are listed at www.evangelicalfellowship.ca (click Affiliate, then Current Affiliates).

Other articles
Nov/Dec 2006 Issue

Cover Story
Called Into The House

Featured Articles
Native Suicide: A Challenge to the Church

One Youth's Life or Death Struggle

From the Editor
Called to Respond

Kingdom Matters
Affair Ministry Emerged from Brokenness

Family's Story Tied to Mercy Ships

Phone Ministry 24/7 

Splat! Paintball with Christian Love

The Gathering Place
Responding to Distortions

God at Work in Denominations
God Uses Willingness to Serve

A Church You Should Know
Eglise Nouvelle Vie

Ask a Theologian:
What DNA Matter Did the Baby Jesus Have?

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