Church-Led Community Service Projects

Discussion in 'Evangelism, Missions and the Persecuted Church' started by BLM, Aug 23, 2019.

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  1. BLM

    BLM Puritan Board Freshman

    Hello PBers,

    Over the past several years I've noticed a trend in my community where churches are increasingly involved in community service type projects in my area. Things like leaf-raking, picking up trash, landscaping, job skill programs, sports camps, etc. Typically everyone shows up to the event with matching t-shirts with something catchy like "love your city" emblazoned on it.

    I'm all for people stewarding the resources in their community well and being involved in the neighborhood one finds him/herself in; however, it seems like these types of church-led events have come to eclipse traditional forms of Christian outreach (VBS, tract distribution, open air preaching, etc) that used to have a deliberate gospel-sharing purpose.

    1. Has anyone else noticed this trend in their communities?

    2. What does your church's involvement in the community look like?

    I'll post more on this later...I gotta get ready for work.

    I wish everyone a joyful day in the Lord! Thanks.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2019
  2. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Some things are good in and of themselves. But they are bad when compared to what the intended goal was.

    The GOOD is the enemy of the BEST.

    The Great Commission is pretty clear and specific. Being a good neighbor is great. But if time and resources are taken away from the Great Commission, then we must question the action. The neighbors are not starving, nor in need or urgent medical is just yard clean-up. What, the neighbors can't clean up their own yards? Sports training, etc, is good.

    I think churches should be active in their communities, yes. But let's make sure they are doing the best things as well.
  3. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    Community service projects are fine as a supplement to the church's main mission in its community: to proclaim the word of God and be the assembly of his people. The problem comes when they supplant that main mission, or when that emphasis on "our city" becomes a self-serving project while needy believers and missions elsewhere are forgotten.

    So yes, there are many valid concerns to watch out for. But provided we guard against these, there are also a few good reasons to include the occasional community service project as a part of a church's outreach:

    1. It can help you make initial, friendly contact with people who otherwise would not be inclined to listen to the gospel. For many unbelievers, a community service encounter is a more comfortable first contact with the church than, say, showing up to bring your kid to VBS. People are more likely to drop by for services or other gospel-proclaiming events if they have first had some other, pleasant contact.

    2. It's a way for many people in the church to help. Not everyone is called or gifted to preach, and there are barriers to helping with VBS too. But most people can support those core evangelism efforts by making friendly contact in the community.

    3. It's a culturally-accepted way to show we care and to demonstrate love. Much of the message we proclaim must, by necessity, go against the grain of our culture. It may even give offense. If we see a Christian-compatible opportunity to display kindness in a way that people will appreciate, why not jump in now and then? Proclaiming the gospel, which will give offense, does not mean our whole lives should consist only of things that give offense or feel weird to outsiders.
  4. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    What bugs me is I have to wear the T-Shirt to be considered part of the church doing something. Got news for all of us, the church is doing good works without the shirt, and that is just as important and wearing "the shirt". Not to say doing things corporately is bad but do not call this a missionary outreach.
  5. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Such works are supplements.... not substitutes. As Jack says above.
  6. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Senior

    Yes, I've noticed this. I've even seen churches that will cancel their Lord's day services and do these kinds of projects in their place. They have trendy sounding mantras like "Instead of going to church, we're going to be the church."

    I do not believe these kinds of projects are in keeping with the purpose of the local church. The local church exists to uphold the public worship of God, proclaim propagate the gospel of Jesus Christ to the edification of saints and the conversion of sinners, to administer the ordinances, and to faithfully exercise the office of the keys through the practice of biblical church discipline.

    Community service projects are great. I encourage the members of my church to love their neighbors in real demonstrable ways. Join the volunteer fire department. Participate in a youth mentorship program. Knit blankets for premature babies in the NICU. Get involved with providing meals for elderly shut-ins. Volunteer at the local crisis pregnancy center. Invest in the lives of folks languishing away in nursing homes.

    These are all great things that individual Christians can and should be involved in. But they are not things the local church should undertake itself. The church does the most good to its community by sticking to its simple mission of making disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ who in turn become salt and light in their homes, work places, and communities. That's what our community outreach "program" looks like.
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  7. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    We often get Church and church mixed up.

    The Church (worldwide body of Christ) are to be vigorously engaged in acts of charity in every sphere of life. The church (local church) has more limited tasks such as preaching, the ordinances, missions. While some Reformed baptists, in particular, begin to restrict the term church to merely a local usage (Mark Dever, for one), others want to try to make anything good a Christian can do to be the focus of the local church (some broad evangelicals).

    Yard work is not the work of the church. But the Church can and should help their neighbors.
  8. BLM

    BLM Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for the responses so far gents! I appreciate your comments and like what I've read.

    I don't want to impugn the motives of all churches that are active in community service type projects, but a part of me wonders whether the increase in this type of activity isn't driven, in part, by Christians struggling with how to cope with the loss of influence in their communities. As the culture in the West grows increasingly hostile towards us, the temptation for churches to engage in community service projects rather than taking the gospel message to those outside its walls is probably a struggle for some.
  9. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Senior

    Reformed Baptists along with Mark Dever affirm the doctrine of the Universal Church as a category. So I'm not sure what is meant by this statement.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2019
  10. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    If one of the purposes is to make initial contacts, then it helps to identify where the people are being invited to go.

    Around here, access is a problem. Folks that can afford to hide in gated communities. Those that don't live behind walls and fences generally aren't going to open their doors to strangers. So at best you are likely to end up talking to a doorbell camera. If you have a child of an appropriate age, you might be able to have some interactions at public parks. And work might earn you a quick trip to HR for a writeup. So it comes down to intentional outreach activities.
  11. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yes, they affirm it. But they usually only stress the activities of the local church. Often when they speak of the Church they relegate it only to its local expression instead of speaking broadly of all the activities proper for the Body of Christ across the globe. They focus overly much on ecclesiology, that's their "thing."
  12. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    Drifting slightly.....I don't think Mark Dever is a Reformed Baptist: I read an article on his website that stated that churches should NOT use the LBCF. We can discuss this elsewhere if it's gonna be huge rabbit trail here.
  13. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Ya, it is probably a rabbit-trail. But I agree. He associates a lot with Sovereign Grace Ministries and has stuck pretty close to C.J. Mahaney despite the several mishandlings of sexual abuse cases in SGM churches and Dever's endorsement is on Josh Harris books. So while many baptists read or listen to Dever, I am not a fan. I believe he is a solid Christian and 95% of his teaching is true. Many 9 Marks articles are excellent. And yet I have heard many reports of authoritarianism and ham-handed church discipline in many 9 Marks churches. So I think there is a "by-the-numbers" reductionist view of how church is done and an over-emphasis on ecclesiology. Dever himself I believe has advised that if a church is just learning about church discipline, then they probably should wait a while until they start really practicing it (maybe he saw some of the abuses and was giving wise advice to curb some of the excesses, because there does also seem to be a "Cage-Stage" when it comes to church discipline as well, and many mishandlings of it have caused folks to flee churches). And yet, things like mandatorily signed church covenants are still part of that culture...and so I want nothing of it.

    Concerning the use of the 1689 Confession in churches, I have certainly seen it used badly. It is like the Sabbath. In the zeal of many to encourage a good thing, the inept manner of encouragement makes such a good thing loathesome in the eyes of many. I've seen such a fixation on the Confession among some Reformed Baptists.
  14. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    To the OP:
    Christians everywhere should be loving their neighbors, but like others I think it's a problem when it's turned into a "Church activity" Why can't I and some fellow Christians help out our neighbors without announcing: "look, our church helped you out!"
    I go and help people move stuff from time to time, or volunteer for this or that, but I do it not to advertise my church, but because I am a Christian. I think that dragging the church into secular activities begins to blur the mission of it. Our church sends people every Lord's Day to minister the Gospel at a nursing home. But we would not send people just to vounteer for other things--they may, and some do, but they're not 'sent by the church' in that way.
  15. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thanks, brother. I am much of the same mind as you. I'm just beginning to encounter these sorts of groups, and have much information to process, not only about 9marks, but Founders, ARBCA, whatever has sprung up in its aftermath. Once I've got my concerns in a row, I may start a thread to discuss it all (is there a Baptist Eccleseology sub-forum?), but we had probably leave this here for now and not derail the OP.
  16. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Senior

    Do they maintain meaningful fellowship and affiliation with like-minded churches both nationally and internationally? Do they join with other churches and organizations to support foreign missions and church-planting endeavors? Do they support the work of local organizations that are engaged in benevolent enterprises serving their communities? The answer is an unequivocal Yes.

    So again, I do not know what you are basing your assumptions on but it is is not an accurate or charitable representation of Reformed Baptist faith and practice.
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