A friend of mine is working on a research study in Toronto called the HALO project. This project originated in Philadelphia and looks at the impact of places of worship in the community; specifically, what would it cost the community to replace the services/programs offered by the faith community.
The Philadelphia study was unequivocal. They studied 12 faith groups and found that it would cost the city $52 000 000 to replace what these groups offer!
In Toronto, allowing for apples and oranges, the initial 10 faith groups impact the city by $45 000 000. St. Andrew’s Hallville is going to be a part of the larger project that Dr. Mike Wood Daley is conducting—which is great, because it’s important to see the impact of local churches in a rural community. But it was when we were on a conference call with other ministers involved in the study, that things became a bit, well, glaring to me.
“What programs does your church offer…?”
“In terms of marital counselling sessions…”
“Paid staff such as custodians, music directors, administrators…”
You see one of the things that my, and others’ research, has discovered is that in rural churches we are program poor but people rich. Don’t believe me, come to the Bible Study… No, we don’t have a food bank or soup kitchen run out of our congregation, but there are a number of members who volunteer at the House of Lazarus, the Dundas County Food Bank or Naomi’s House. No the Senior’s Luncheon isn’t a ministry of St. Andrew’s but much of the leadership is from one of my churches. In rural communities, we believe in “applied Christianity”: if a group such as the Lion’s Club is doing something great, then join up and take part. That’s the church’s ministry—that’s where our mission takes place. And, personally, I think that’s what all churches should be doing. Because, really, Meals on Wheels, the MS society, Community Living, etc., are desperate for volunteers and Christians should be desperate for ways to love their neighbours.
It’s a match made in heaven.
So when I get snooty looks and snide remarks from some of my colleagues who boast about all the programs and services their church offers, I will no longer feel like the poor country cousin. I will laud them on how they are serving the Lord by serving their community and secretly know that we have just about 100% participation in our community.
John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone[a] casting out demons in your name,
and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said,
“Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name
will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us
is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink
because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
~ Mark 9: 38-41