By Delores McDonald
You should see the view from this editor’s office window today. The beautiful rose garden across Camperdown Way is in full bloom. At the forefront of the garden is a solid hedge of bright yellow roses. In the background, roses in hues of pink and red reach toward the sun. Spring has arrived!
But today, this amazing view pales in comparison to what’s happening in our ARP churches. Often the editor’s seat is not a comfortable one – especially when information is received about the “them and us” divisions in our denomination. But this week, after reading newsletters and emails from various churches, I believe God is working in our churches throughout the denomination in a mighty way to spread the gospel.
A number of ARP churches have chosen to go outside the boundaries of their church, in an effort to reach out to their respective communities. This is being accomplished in various ways: some are reaching out to youth through summer day camps (see article on Sebring, FL in May/June issue of the ARP Magazine) and special events (upcoming July/August issue of the ARP Magazine); some are reaching out to students in after school programs: others are building relationship with unchurched families. Others are planning programs for special needs groups (See All That Jazz article in upcoming July/Aug issue).
This is exciting news! Not only are our churches in various states going outside their own church, but in some cases they are joining together to bring the gospel to families in their county or outlying area.
Out of Touch?
Pastor Mark Hering of Sherwood Forest ARP in Columbia, SC, feels churches have lost touch with the community over the years. In the church newsletter he says, “Historically in this country, the church was the cornerstone of the community. Everything that happened in the community had its beginning or end at the church.”
He recalled that at one time, public schools, civic groups, firefighters and community organizations all held their meetings at a church. “Somewhere along the line, the church has been set aside from the community. The world rushes by and churches sit dormant in the midst of our bustling society.”
Hering worries that so many children now are growing up without the church as an important part of their lives. “Communities have devolved into a bunch of individuals who simply live in the same general area. At the risk of being nostalgic, I think we have lost something.”
Sherwood Forest recently held a “Touching the Community Day,” inviting their downtown Columbia community to the church for refreshments and lots of games and blowup slides. Local firefighters participated, bringing a firetruck and allowing kids to try on a firefighter’s gear. The mascot from the local Piggly Wiggly store even made an appearance.
In Lancaster County (SC), First ARP Lancaster is following the example set by Shiloh ARP in leading a gospel ministry in its community. In his Pastor’s Corner article in The Link newsletter, First Lancaster pastor, Kyle Sims, says the greatest opportunity before their church now is through Child Evangelism Fellowship in reaching the lost for Christ.
Sims encourages his congregation to participate. “This is a direct gospel ministry,” Sims said. “We get to go into the schools each week and tell children the gospel. Even now there are organizations seeking to stop this opportunity. The world is always seeking to keep Christ away from them. Should the church not be trying to get the Bible and Christ to kids?”
At the Shiloh Church, pastor Mark Miller and volunteers have already started a Good News Club at North Elementary School to bring the gospel to students. In The Arrow newsletter, he asks his congregation to pray that volunteers will learn their tasks quickly and “that children who have had no exposure to the gospel message will come to know Jesus.”
Since starting the after school program, 100 children have been taught, and nine have made a profession of faith. Sims says that number may seem small, but “when was the last time we had nine professions in six weeks?”
Shiloh and First Lancaster will partner to begin a new after school club at another school, with First Lancaster taking the lead. “Make no doubt, this is work,” Sims said. “Dealing with elementary age children at the end of the school day is a challenge in itself. Yet think of the eternal fruit that can be seen by this work.”
His challenge is this: “Are you willing to sacrifice so that those who are walking in darkness might come to know the light of Christ? The opportunity is here now to have a gospel impact on Lancaster.”
Tirzah (SC) ARP‘s associate pastor, Bob Elliott and Clover ARP‘s pastor, Evan English have also joined forces to bring the word of God to local elementary students in an after school program.
First Presbyterian Church in Avon Park, FL newsletter asks its members to join in the National Day of Prayer tomorrow, uniting with millions around the world, praying for God’s forgiveness and for our nation to again be “one nation under God.
White Oak Presbyterian Church in Senoia, GA is inviting those in their community to join them at the church for the National Day of Prayer to pray for our country.
Due West (SC) ARP is scheduled to hold a huge picnic for the entire community to get acquainted with families and individuals living in close proximity to the church.
These are just a few examples. I’m sure so many more of our churches are doing things to include their communities. It’s so encouraging to see this happening at a time when there is so much strife within our our communities and our denomination.