By Randall R. Childress
A recent movement among churches is “Don”t go to church””Be the church.” The idea is that instead of gathering for worship, the church should be out in the community doing good in the name of Christ.
I thought about the church meeting needs and saving souls when I read a comment by Drew Dyck, managing editor of Leadership Journal, in the Winter 2012 issue. “My church is big on service,” Dyck wrote. “So big, in fact, that we cancel every fourth Sunday
gathering andÂ spend the morning serving theÂ community. We paint houses, rake leaves,Â serve the homeless, finish basements””you name it. But there”s one crucial thing our service hasn”t done: led people to faith in Jesus.” Dyck”s pastor said, “We haven”t baptized anyone in more than two years!”
One of the ways Kempsville Church of Christ, Virginia Beach, Virginia, has sought to do good and do it in the name of Christ is through its homeless ministry called “Mainstreaming.”
Historically, our homeless ministry has gone out regularly to various camps to provide food, clothing, sleeping bags, and basic necessities. We have helped the civic homeless organizations in our city. However, those efforts did not allow us to have as much impact on the homeless as we”d like. That”s why we started “Mainstreaming.”
In “Mainstreaming,” KCC attempts to incorporate homeless people in our church life. Our homeless ministry team runs a bus each week to certain homeless camps and picks up anyone who wants to worship with us. Our team is careful to evaluate each person who boards the bus. If there is the smell of alcohol, that person is not allowed to board, however he or she can still enjoy the supplies we bring with us.
The homeless people we bring to church services attend a Sunday school class where they can ask questions, participate in discussions, and build friendships. Our homeless ministry team members sit with our homeless guests in the worship service. If one forgets where he is or becomes a distraction, our team helps him understand how we”d like him to behave while in our building. Many of the homeless people have provided us with much enjoyment and fellowship.
After worship, our adult Bible fellowship groups and Sunday school classes take turns providing lunch, fellowshipping with our homeless guests. While they”re with us, we help provide for as many of their needs as we can. Our team also runs the bus for many church activities through the week.
God Has Worked
A great blessing of this ministry is to see how God has worked. One man found a job and was able to provide for his homeless family. We supplied the family with furniture and furnishings for their apartment. Our team helped an elderly homeless couple find an apartment and furnish it. Another young man who had nothing but a scooter found a job and has been able to provide for his family.
But the greatest blessing is to see many of these homeless folks come to Christ. Last year we baptized six homeless persons through “Mainstreaming.” Beyond that, over the last year we have gained several new members who have a heart for the homeless and have joined our ministry team. One formerly homeless woman drives nearly 30 miles every Sunday for our 9:00 a.m. service because she now has a job and a place to sleep, and she wants to stay with our church family.
If you were to talk to our church, and especially to our homeless team, you would discover that we are the ones who are blessed through this ministry.
Randall R. Childress is senior minister with Kempsville Church of Christ in Virginia Beach, Virginia.