|By Ron Fontenot November 4, 2016|
Ron Fontenot writes that O’Fallon First United Methodist Church is at a crossroads in the life of the church and it may be time for O’Fallon First to reinvent itself and engage the community and build covenantal relationships that will lead people to Jesus Christ.
“We are not here by accident. God put us here for a purpose.” You may have heard this phrase before but let’s think about what it means to O’Fallon First UMC. I use this phrase often to encourage those around me doing the messy work of helping others. “God put you right here in this situation for a purpose.” We read in Ephesians 1:4 “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world…” We are not here by accident, wherever here is. God has a plan for us.
Just as God has a plan for each of us He has a plan for O’Fallon First. We have many opportunities to interact and build relationships and make disciples with the people living just outside our church doors. Just as John Wesley, we must view the community as our congregation. “I look upon all the world as my parish” John Wesley (Journal, June 11, 1739). Pastor Don Long in a recent sermon reminded us of our membership covenant with the church to faithfully participate in its ministries by (1) prayers (2) presence (3) gifts (4) service and (5) witness. We must certainly pray and discern where God is calling O’Fallon First but we must also consider The Great Commission which is found in Matthew 28. Basically, Jesus tells us “go and make disciples” which is the witness part of our membership covenant. Charles T. Studd, a British missionary, is attributed to have said “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop, within a yard of hell.”
I believe we are at a crossroads in the life of our church and God is calling O’Fallon First to reinvent itself and engage the community and build covenantal relationships that will lead people to Jesus Christ. The answer is right outside the church’s front doors but how do we make our church vital to the community is the question. Maybe the answer is more community activities that serve the community’s needs. Jesus didn’t invite people to attend a worship service but He met people in their environment and offered warmth and compassion. Jesus’ words in Matthew 28 tell us what we should be doing: “Therefore, go and make disciples….” We don’t need to spend a lot of time and energy crafting words and coming up with a pithy mission or vision statement for our church. The UMC Book of Discipline makes it clear: “The mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” We need to spend more time trying to align our “caring” ministries to meet the needs of the O’Fallon community while at the same time follow Nehemiah’s example in 2:13. We need to spend time on prayer walks, listening, analyzing, discovering, how best we can assist those in need. Here are some ideas and I look forward to your feedback.
Perhaps we can look to the Chevy Chase Apartments to follow Jesus’ footsteps. Chevy Chase Apartments, located behind Dean Foods – Pet Dairy along State Street, which has 52 units, all of which are Section 8 assisted living units. Wouldn’t it be great if our church had a building located in the neighborhood to offer a meal, a small food pantry, and maybe a thrift shop? It is about building relationships.
Perhaps we should look within the walls of O’Fallon Township High School. We hear how successful the sports programs are and we read about all the wonderful accomplishments the band enjoys but we seldom hear about the child that comes from a broken home and is struggling in many ways. Wouldn’t it be great if we could start an after school program that includes tutoring and mentorship?
Perhaps we should look inside the O’Fallon Senior Apartments, the low income senior living facility across the street from our church, to the elderly which are often times alone. Offer a potluck once a month, start a pie ministry, or adopt a senior to spend time with are just a few suggestions that will allow time to build a relationship.
God didn’t put O’Fallon First on Highway 50, across from O’Fallon Township High School, across from the Chevy Chase Apartments, across from the O’Fallon Senior Apartments by accident. Perhaps it is time to rethink our purpose and refocus our prayer time, our Bible Studies, small groups, and conversations to look outward to the community. O’Fallon First is richly blessed with many “caring” ministries, but are we doing “transformational” ministry? Are we learning the names and situations of those we serve? Are we building relationships? How do we put our beliefs into action? Church doesn’t just happen from inside the building on Sunday mornings. Church happens when we reach out to those who are hungry, sick or forgotten. Church happens when we open our hearts to those who are struggling. Are you with me? I welcome your feedback.
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8