the weblog of Alan Knox

Guest Blogger: Being the Church to the Community Around Us

Posted by on Aug 20, 2012 in church life, guest blogger, love, service | 9 comments

Guest Blogger: Being the Church to the Community Around Us

I’ve invited people to write “guest blog posts” for this blog. There are several reasons for this: 1) To offer different perspectives. 2) To generate even more discussion and conversation between blogs. 3) To introduce other bloggers to my readers.

(If you are interested in writing a guest blog post, please contact me at aknox[at]sebts[dot]com.)

Today’s post was written by Allen Madding. You can connect with Allen via his blog or Twitter (@allenmadding). Also, check out Feed the Hungry Forsyth at their website, Twitter (@feedforsyth), or Facebook.


Being the Church to the Community Around Us

For years the Church has gotten a bad rap for building a grandiose cathedral and expecting the lost and hurting to come to them. When the lost and hurting does not respond, committees are formed to try to figure out why. And when the Church contemplated service, they looked overseas – raised money, bought plane tickets and travelled thousands of miles away completely overlooking the hurting in the community that surrounded them. So the hurting in the community became skeptical of the Church and its motives. And who could blame them? If you were hungry and the Church walked by you every day and pretended not to notice you, would you trust them? If you were homeless and the Church turned a blind eye to you, would you trust them? How receptive would you be to someone explaining the gift of salvation to you if you had not had a meal in weeks and did not have a dry place to sleep? How could you accept the message that God is love and God loves you when you felt like his people did not care about you?

Although we live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, 13 percent of those living in the United States live in poverty. One in four or 16.7 million children in the United States live in a household that does not know where the next meal is coming from – a situation we refer to as food insecurity. More than 49 million Americans, roughly 14.6 percent of the U.S., regularly face food insecurity.

What is the Church’s role in this situation? I believe we are called to open our hands and turn loose of the blessings we hold so tight. Instead of spending every dollar we make on a bigger house, fancier kitchens, a nicer foreign car, and a bigger flat screen, maybe we should pair down our lifestyles and bless the hurting.

What does the Bible say?

“The generous will themselves be blessed,
for they share their food with the poor.” Proverbs 22:9

John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” Luke 3:11

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48

Mother Teresa put it like this, “When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.”

So how do we respond? First we have to open our eyes to the needs in the community around us. Once we recognize the need, we need to ask how we can make a long-term response. Handing a hungry man a sandwich is good. But in six hours, he will be hungry again. Providing a hungry family a week’s worth of groceries once a week is a better answer. Finally, the Church does not have to create another program or ministry. It would be far better to seek out the nonprofits in the community that are struggling to respond to the need and provide them with financial support and an army of volunteers.

Responding to the needs in the community is not optional. The Church is called to respond. Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Make a Difference!


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 8-20-2012

    Nice encouragement Allen. This insight runs up against a sacred cow. “Finally, the Church does not have to create another program or ministry.” If we are seeking to serve, this is an obvious way to do so.

    But, too often we struggle with wanting to build “our” church and wonder how we can get credit if we do work through others. This isn’t as black and white simple a motivation as we might think. We frame it as wanting to give Christ credit, with a whole lot of “how do we do this so our own church grows and gets credit” rolled in.

    Even if we do start our own ministry because no one else is working with this group or need, if we are there to serve, should we be concerned that any “fruit” joins our church? Again, we roll that building of our own church/kingdom into “good,” being concerned that our church does everything the best way… and not just wanting to grow our church on the face of it.

    We do need to fundamentally decide if we are seeking to serve or seeking our own glory. More difficult than you might imagine.

  2. 8-20-2012

    Thanks, Art! Our motivation is definately a struggle and sometimes I am not sure if we even recognize our true motivation. I firmly believe if we answer the need and focus on giving Christ the glory, He will deal with growing the church and we don’t have to fret over it.


  3. 8-20-2012


    You said:
    “And when the Church contemplated service, they looked overseas – raised money, bought plane tickets and travelled thousands of miles away completely overlooking the hurting in the community that surrounded them. So the hurting in the community became skeptical of the Church and its motives.”

    This is my biggest point of contention with what the churches of America call “missions”. They raise money through bake sales and tag sales, assemble a group of volunteers, and then jet off for a week or so to a distant country to ‘bring The Gospel’ to a people who already have Christians there, doing their best to be The Gospel. Is it American arrogance wrapped up in piety that people in foreign countries need, having groups of “missionaries” come to them for a short time and then leave them again, not following through with discipleship? Establishing ‘pen pals’ in foreign nations seems hardly adequate to relay the fullness of The Gospel.

    Haiti, a long-time favorite destination of American “missionaries”, has 200 or so Christian ministries active there right now. And where is the fruit? Haiti is not that big. You’d think with all those Christians running about that a revival would explode and Haiti would move from being a third-world nation to being a land of Godly peace and spiritual prosperity. Why do we continue to send “missionaries” there, when outside our very doors there are hurting people? Is it a kind of Christian guilt or something? Do we only feel like we are doing “God’s work” if we travel far from home to “less fortunate” people with our American clothing and cell phones? Yikes.

    I live in a small New England town. We have people here living in squalor. We have people here living in The World of death, pain, misery, and hopelessness. They are not Haitians, Mexicans, Cambodians, etc. These people are Americans.

    Am I saying we, as American Christians, should tend to them first, before we run off to ‘save the world for Jeeezus’? In a way, yes. How can I pass by two or more hurting Americans, on my way to the airport to tend to hurting foreigners, and not wonder if there is something wrong about this?

    I realize our King has told us to go into The World and make disciples. I get that. But is not The World right outside our front doors, or is The World in a foreign nation only?

    In The Book of Acts we see the fledgling Church, having been established by Jesus Himself, minister and tend to themselves first, and THEN they began their outreach according to the command of Jesus. Was this the mindset of a selfish group of elitists, or is there a lesson and template here to learn from and to follow?

    Listen, The World is huge. We know this. But so is our Father. Surely there are Christians in each nation on this planet who are able to minister as we do here. There is no such thing as a ‘God-forsaken land’. The Lord has His people everywhere. Instead of us seeking to bring our American Christianity to other nations, why not simply plug into what He is already doing in other nations?

  4. 8-20-2012


    I should clarify that my above comments were not aimed at you! Not at all! I am in agreement with what you have written. I just took the ball you threw and ran with it, but in no way am I implying you are the specific subject of my comments! Sorry…I tend to ramble. 🙂

  5. 8-20-2012

    No Worries! I could not agree with you more. While I believe foreign missions are a good thing, I believe if we ignore the world outside our front door, we are missing our call. My wife and I went to Venezuela last year and it was a great experience. But when. I returned home, I was faced with what’s in my backyard. Folks laidoff work, lost their homes, single mothers struggling to provide for their children, elderly struggling to survive on limited income, 23% of the children in our area not having access to regular meals. I cannot ignore it, pat myself on the back and say “I served one week last year.” Its time we stepped out of the front door of our local church, paused on the front steps, and said “how can I help our neighbors?”


  6. 8-20-2012


    This is why I refer to today’s modern-day “missionaries”, (let’s go to a foreign nation for a week and then leave), as Christian tourists. Not seeking to offend you, since you did just that in Venezuela, but you get my gist.

    Loving our neighbors, as you alluded to, is a local reference. For indeed, how can I love someone I have not yet met? Love means more than good intentions.

  7. 8-20-2012

    I have appreciate the discussion here. Thank you especially to Allen for replying to the comments on his post.

    Let me push back just a bit. I agree that followers of Jesus Christ (when they are walking in the Spirit) will respond to the love of God by proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ to unbelievers around them, by strengthening the believers around them, and by serving and caring for those who are in need around them. If someone senses that God wants them to go “over there,” should they wait until they are walking in the Spirit and doing all of those things before they go?


  8. 8-20-2012


    If any of us waited until we were fully “walking in The Spirit” before we acted on what we thought our Father was telling us to do, nothing would ever get done.

    As unruly as this may sound, (and it will), I have learned that in regard to relating to our Father, and doing as I believe He would tell me to do, it is sometimes easier to say I am sorry than it is for me to ask permission.

    He has not once played games with me and hidden His will from me, but there have been times when He has watched to see if I have matured enough to do as I think His Son would do.

    Take that for what it’s worth.

  9. 8-21-2012


    I agree. So, it’s possible that some of the people are obeying God when they travel to other places in order to proclaim the gospel, strengthen believers, and serve others.