This past weekend, we visited the Blessed Church of the Nazarene in the northern suburbs of Manila as part of World Health Day. This church specifically invited community health care workers to the service simply to honor them. In this case, many of those honored work for the local barungay (village) government. The church did not want to “convert” them but simply to express their appreciation for what they do for the community. One of the ladies said that this was the first time she had ever been honored like this. I would like to reflect from a pastor’s perspective on this event.
This started as a vision of the pastor. The pastor as leader has been helping his church for many years move out into the community. They do different events and activities. His vision has been contagious with the church people. The church was full of activity, especially after the service. I asked a church member if it is always like this, and the answer was, yes. The results may take a long time in coming, but this outlook has been inspiring and encouraging to the people. The church was quite small when the pastor arrived four years ago. It is not a large church today, but the vision is strong and they are making a difference in their community.
The church has worked hard in developing relationships with the local government and community. The church is involved in different community activities. The pastor stays in contact with the local leaders. How many pastors actually take the time and effort to meet their local mayor, city council, or other leaders? It is easy to become isolated, even in a large city. I was a pastor in several small towns. I knew a few government people, but I failed at developing relationships like this church. What a missed opportunity to be a blessing and encouragement!
The church is not large in number but has a large heart. Even making an impact on one person is worth the effort. This church may not even have 75-100 people on a given Sunday morning. The building cannot hold too many more than this. But they ministered to 15 people by honoring their work for the community. These people represent many families and the thousands they serve every week.
This was a “no strings attached” event. The church was not trying to convert anyone. They simply wanted to express appreciation. This was not a church growth opportunity but an expression of love. People can tell if something is sincere or not. It seemed like those who came to the worship service felt special and appreciated by the church people. The community leaders know that this small church has a lot of love and that it has as a goal to be an instrument of God’s grace and love to the community.
This church honored with something tangible. Each honoree received a nice framed certificate with his or her name on it and a loaf of freshly baked banana bread. A substantial part of the worship time was devoted to calling up each person, taking a photo, and clapping. It was like a graduation ceremony. Afterwards, everyone gathered for the photo posted above. It was a big deal and felt like a special time for everyone.
There is a lot we can learn from this experience. Every church cannot do exactly as this church, but there are things that every church can do to reach out to its community in God glorifying ways. This will take prayer, creativity, and courage.
For more pastoral reflections, click here.