By Trey Teel
It seems many of today’s churches have lost credibility in their local community, with citizens harboring an attitude of skepticism toward the bride of Christ.
I have a problem with that.
When we started Renovate Church a year and a half ago, I was unsure of a lot of things. I was sure, however, that we needed to be a church making a difference in the community.
The Rec Center
The director at our local recreation center was the first person who helped us get the ball rolling. He told me stories and lamented about how previous church plants—ones that are now long gone, I might add—fought over community building spaces.
The city grew tired of it, he said, and banned churches from using any community buildings. Additionally, the school district increased rental rates, making it impossible to afford any space to meet for worship.
The director also shared that though he had tried recruit help for the center, he couldn’t rely on churches. They’d commit to helping, he said, but would then break commitments at the last minute.
We have a lot of great churches in our city, but a few bad experiences have wreaked havoc on goodwill and left a legacy of destruction.
I quickly realized if we were going to make a difference in this community and gain credibility with its citizens, we’d better start asking what we can do for the city rather than what the city can do for us.
Partnering With Purpose
We began partnering with the city’s recreation department and served at their events by setting up chairs and tables and cleaning up. We consistently show up to build trust. Today, when they need help, they call us.
Although we’re small, we’ve proven ourselves to be resourceful and dependable. Last October, the recreation department asked our church along with other churches and businesses to help with a trunk-or-treat event in the gym.
Our church—which at the time consisted of around 30 people—took up a great deal of the slack and filled most of the gym. It was a testimony of God’s power and provision to us and the city.
Transforming Hearts and Homes
Before Christmas, I met with the city manager. I shared with him that Renovate Church is focused on transforming lives and restoring hearts to God, and that we would love to help renovate some homes in the community.
He stared at me and said, “I just don’t know what to do with you. No church has ever asked me how they could help the city.”
About a week later, a city council member called to say she was at a house that needed repairs. The contractors had walked off the job two days before a homeless family was scheduled to move in.
She had called the city manager for help who in turn had said to call Renovate Church. We went to work that day, making all the necessary repairs to get the family moved into their new home.
Subsequently, city code enforcement officers identified two non-compliant homes that desperately needed repairs. We’ll start working on those in May.
Another Opportunity to Serve
About a month ago, the same city council member called me again to share how a government-assisted apartment building was being sold. The USDA wanted to meet with the residents to explain the process and how it was going to affect them.
The city council member asked if we could be there to serve refreshments, be available to pray with people, and offer assistance. A couple of members and I went.
I was also allowed to speak to about 150 residents and tell them how much we care for them. I assured them we’ll help as much as we can in cooperation with the city. We were privileged to be able to pray for people there as well.
Spiritual First Responders
And that’s when it happened. The city council member posted on Facebook that Renovate Church is the “city’s spiritual first responders.” Wow! What a compliment.
We’ve not received any new members or even guests from these relationships or service projects, but what we’re doing is work for God’s Kingdom.
We serve, not in order to gain something from it, but because we’re called to love. We know, however, and have faith that the gains we’re making are Kingdom gains.
What if through our efforts, the image of the Church changes for the better in our little community? What if through these acts of service, the Church begins to gain credibility again? What if we show people we love them and then tell them about God’s love for them?
We’re planting seeds that will have an impact in the community in the future. It’s OK therefore if we don’t see fruit from those seeds in our services each week.
We keep our focus on God’s Kingdom and on the call, not on the numbers of our church. When the Church is seen as being more credible, then God is also seen as being more credible—not in our eyes, but the eyes of those watching and wondering.
How can your church act as spiritual first responders and build credibility within your community?
TREY TEEL (@treyteel) is the pastor of Renovate Church, a licensed professional counselor in private practice at Teel Counseling, husband of Amy, and father of two teenage sons. He also loves to restore classic cars in what little spare time he can find.