Each Wednesday evening after prayer meeting, I walk to the third floor of our facilities to view the answer to many people’s prayers.
Our church has a medical clinic there, which makes it possible for anyone without insurance to see a doctor or a dentist and get their prescriptions filled.
This year, the clinic is on track to have 1,500 patient visits. The pharmacy will give out approximately 6,000 prescriptions, free of charge.
The clinic is managed by a full-time registered nurse, who oversees a wonderful staff of volunteers from our church and the community, including doctors, dentists, nurses and pharmacists.
Students from surrounding colleges, especially those going into medicine or already in medical school, come throughout the week as their schedules allow.
After greeting patients waiting for their names to be called and thanking the volunteers for coming to work in the clinic, I’ll go to the fourth floor of our building to greet the volunteers working in our clothes closet.
They are always busy helping people find back-to-school clothes and coats for winter or birthday and Christmas gifts.
Rarely do I go to the clinic or clothes closet without seeing tears. When you make hope visible, people cry. Words of encouragement bring smiles to people’s faces; the healing touch of a doctor or a warm winter coat makes them cry.
On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, the tears are replaced with laughter as elementary school children hop off the bus and run into our hallways. They are greeted by piano teachers eager to give lessons to each child, free of charge.
Children whose parents cannot afford lessons are selected to come to our academy by the family resource person in the nearby school.
So appreciative are the principal and superintendent for what we are doing, they send the bus back to the church after the lessons are over to pick up the kids and take them home.
Every church I have been the pastor of has been filled with loving and compassionate members. The church I now pastor takes ministry to a whole new level.
What makes this remarkable is the fact this church is almost 200 years old, and the members worship in a sanctuary built three years after the Civil War.
Numbers have tumbled, like many mainline, downtown churches by the development of the suburbs and the construction of new churches in the community.
Instead of abandoning their neighbors and relocating, however, the members of First Baptist Frankfort in Kentucky decided to reinvent themselves. They discovered what their downtown neighbors needed and figured out how to provide it.
Can any church do this? Sure, and many do. Would you like to see your church become more engaged in the local community? If so, let me offer some observations and suggestions for you to consider.
Adopt the mind of Christ, which focused on listening to people’s stories and meeting their needs. Roll up your sleeves and do what Jesus would do if he lived where you do.
Partner with anyone who is also trying to meet human needs. Form alliances with schools, hospitals, civic clubs and government agencies. Trust me, they will be glad to include you.
Be prepared for a lot of wear and tear on your facilities. If you want your building to be a pristine museum, don’t attempt this.
Look for funding beyond the offering plate. Apply for grants and encourage members to leave the church in their wills.
Let volunteers tell their stories. Volunteers recruit volunteers by sharing their experiences because ministry is transformative and contagious.
Compliment volunteers publicly. Celebrate their accomplishments and all they do behind the scenes to make hope visible.
Pray with the patients who come to the clinic and invite them to worship. Feed their spirits and heal their broken hearts, too.
Study what other churches are doing and learn from their successes and failures. Tour their site. Quiz their leaders. Talk to their volunteers.
Here is a story I have used repeatedly from one of my visits: “God had to blow away the walls of our church for us to see the people around us who needed our help.”
These words were spoken by the pastor of a church in Biloxi, Miss., after Hurricane Katrina almost leveled their facilities.
The pastor went on to say he and the members of the church met many of their neighbors for the first time after the hurricane struck, something he was not proud of because the church had been in that location for many years.
They made an interesting discovery soon after those walls were gone. As much as their neighbors needed their help to rebuild their lives and faith after Katrina, they had needed them long before the hurricane came ashore.
Bob Browning is pastor of First Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky. His sermon manuscripts appear at EthicsDaily.com This column first appeared at Morning Walk Media and is used by permission.