In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
This year I had the opportunity to serve in a Thanksgiving outreach event my church does every year, and I wanted to reflect on the ministry and my desire to see more from the Church – the body of Christ as a whole.
We’ve been communicating with our city’s school counselors and outreach coordinators since February to receive a list of families who likely would not be able to afford a Thanksgiving meal. We then partnered with a local food service to cook all the food and we delivered it fully cooked, along with Christmas presents and trees if the families wanted them, on Thanksgiving morning.
The church I go to has been doing this outreach for 10 years, but this was the first we did it on such a large scale. In the past, we’ve partnered with a single elementary school in our city, and last year we expanded to a few more. This year, we reached out to all 42 elementary schools in our city and were able to serve 375 families from 30 different elementary schools. Over 2,000 people. One of our pastors did the math and figured that equals out to about 1% of our city’s population.
That seems so small, but for our church (about the same size as the number of families we served) to be able to do that is amazing! Think about if all churches across the country did this. How many of the hungry could we feed?
I love this ministry so much not because it makes me feel good about myself, but because I feel like it’s getting to the heart of what loving Jesus is all about. It’s reaching outside the comfortability of church walls to serve the community. If we have the means (time, money, resources) to serve those who don’t, we’re called to do so. And not because we need to earn anything from Christ, but because loving Jesus and living for him causes our hearts to want to serve others. By serving people, you never know what sort of opportunities will open up that will allow them to see Christ in that service, turn to Him, and enter into discipleship.
The experience of getting to deliver to these families can be joyous, heartbreaking, and utterly eye-opening for some. The families are always so extremely grateful, and often open up to us and share some of their story.
We reach out to the community for volunteers, otherwise our church wouldn’t be able to get this done. I invited a friend from work to come deliver on Thanksgiving, and she asked her sister-in-law if she would be interested. Her sister-in-law, who has never showed interest in attending a church service or event over the 33 years they’ve known each other, signed up right away. And after it was over, she asked my friend if she would come to our church service with her on Sunday. Inviting unbelievers into ministry can impact their hearts just as much as the people we’re serving.
I’m not writing about all of this to brag about my church, but simply to reflect, show the power of Christ at work, and share about a way we can hopefully show others his love in a practical and impactful way. I would love to see every church do ministry like this in their communities, or to hear about ways yours is already doing so! I’d love to hear your thoughts about how else we can bring our love of Jesus outside the walls of the church.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.