Making an Impact Through Service
Service is a way of life at Discovery Church in Bristol, Tennessee. The church was founded on a culture of service that has endured throughout the congregation’s 10-year history. Discovery’s current lead pastor, Matt Korell, served as a missionary in Taiwan before accepting the call to lead the church, and his experience overseas impressed upon him the importance of service.
“This church has a spirit of serving,” Korell said, and that spirit is part of what attracted him to Discovery.
One tradition at the church is “Sent to Serve” Sunday; these take place typically four times a year on the fifth Sunday of the month. In 2020, the first Sent to Serve Sunday was celebrated on March 29, just weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic.
A typical Sent to Serve Sunday at Discovery involves a lot of personal, face-to-face interaction. The congregation typically gathers at 9:30 a.m. for a worship song and Communion, then the people disperse to various sites in the community. Historically, Discovery Church members have assisted at local nursing homes and homeless shelters, delivered food, and even provided medical help for low-income residents in the area.
This hands-on approach has earned Discovery a reputation as a serving church, and local organizations ranging from schools to pregnancy centers, and even city government, have requested assistance from the congregation. But when Sent to Serve occurred just weeks into the coronavirus lockdown, the church introduced an option for members to participate without leaving home. Participants baked cookies, wrote cards to frontline workers and nursing home residents, and prepared other gifts for delivery to those in need.
“It wasn’t difficult to serve in that situation, but it was different,” Korell said.
Eventually, Discovery hosted all four of its regularly scheduled Sent to Serve Sundays in 2020. As the year went on, the church added other coronavirus-safe options. Participants visited nursing homes but maintained social distance by knocking on windows and visiting with seniors through the glass. Discovery Church members delivered hot meals to low-income residents at a local apartment complex and served food in an outdoor setting downtown. On the fifth Sunday in November, volunteers from Discovery Church put Christmas decals on the windows at the nursing home, to the delight of the residents.
The Sent to Serve program is a cornerstone of Discovery’s ongoing ministry, but it’s hardly the only way the church serves its neighbors. Korell said the church’s goal is “to make an impact through service.” Some small groups regularly serve together in addition to meeting for Bible study, and the church opened its building at times during the pandemic to serve as a remote learning center for children who needed access to reliable internet connections.
Through these regular, repeated acts of service, Korell said Discovery is fulfilling its mission to “help people discover Jesus and their place in his story.”