“We don’t go anywhere.”
These were the words of the young man buying our old air hockey/pool table combo. He saw the table for sale on Facebook and had come by to haul it off. As we prepped the table to be moved, I asked him for his story. He grew up “Over The Mountain,” graduated from a local high school, and served in the military. Afterward, he returned to the area to raise his family.
When we lifted the table onto the trailer, he asked what I did for a living. I told him that I was one of the pastors at Shades Mountain Baptist Church.
“Oh, yeah. I’ve driven by there many times before," he said. "On Columbiana right?”
“That’s the one,” I told him.
“Where do you go to church?” The question was in the natural flow of conversation. It didn’t catch him off guard or offend him that I asked.
He matter-of-factly responded, “We don’t go anywhere.”
Here is someone that has driven past our church many times. He knows the location, has seen banners advertising our events, and has never stepped in the door. The days of people coming to church simply because there is a church to go to are long gone. In fact, statistics tell us that nearly half of people who live Over The Mountain “don’t go anywhere.”
This breaks the heart of God. He has created people for a thriving, meaningful relationship with Himself. Jesus gave His life so that people would enter into a relationship with God and become part of the movement known as His Church. We cannot sit on the sidelines and watch our community trickle away from God. So what do we do?
It is time for us to engage our community. Shades Mountain Baptist Church is launching a new initiative aimed at making a difference Over The Mountain for the Gospel. Community Engagement is about three things:
Serving Our Institutions: Our schools and first responders need our support. In the coming months we will make a significant investment to bless our community institutions Over The Mountain. We will adopt schools in our own neighborhoods. We will tangibly bless our first responders through building relationships, bringing meals, and training chaplains from our own congregation. We will expand our partnerships so that our community institutions know that Shades cares.
Sharing with Individuals: God has uniquely positioned our church membership through the community. In many neighborhoods and businesses, there are people from Shades who can share the Gospel with people who are in desperate need of it. In the days ahead, we will equip hundreds of Shades members with effective ways to share their faith and help others begin a relationship with Jesus.
Starting New Endeavors: Across our community, there are pockets of people in neighborhoods without a strong, gospel-preaching local church. Perhaps it is because some of the churches in that area are in decline and getting ready to close their doors. Perhaps it is because there is no church at all to be a witness in that part of the community. Shades will begin new endeavors in church planting, church revitalization, and/or starting campuses Over The Mountain to meet the need.
Our hope in Community Engagement is not to get everyone in the community in the doors of our church, but to get our church into the community. We see a day coming when Shades is more than a church that someone drives by on Columbiana Road. We imagine a day when Shades will bring life and light to every road in the community Over The Mountain.
I hope that you will join us in this new and exciting vision. May God use every effort of Shades in Community Engagement to bring people into a life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ!
If you are interesting in joining and leading within this effort, please email Steve Browning at firstname.lastname@example.org