In thinking about Missional Outreach at ARPC I believe we need to do three things: learn from our past, evaluate our present, and set a course for our future. I have served ARPC for almost three years now and I have heard multiple stories about the newness of our missional focus. Effective missional outreach such as our trips to Tazwell, work with Habitat for Humanity, and local mission partnerships were done before, but I’m told something changed several years ago. The Spirit began to move in a fresh new way!
According to multiple witnesses, one of the catalysts was a Bible Study program called Disciple and through the study people began to gather weekly in God’s Word, as well as brainstorm of ways to serve the community. Out of these ideas came the Room in the Inn ministry, and a greater partnership with the elementary school next door. ARPC has hosted numerous outside congregations on campus who needed a place to worship from varying cultural backgrounds- and that is not an exaggerated statement. What other church can say they hosted a Ukrainian congregation, and African American congregation, a Burmese congregation, and a Nepalese congregation all in a period of about five years? This hospitality is a missional generosity that flows directly from the heart of our Father in Heaven.
During my time at ARPC the Bridge program was launched. Volunteers set aside Thursday afternoon to walk 20-30 children from the elementary school over to our Family Life Center for games, snacks, tutoring, and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a wonderful program where relationships have been cultivated not only with the children, but with their families, with the school, and with volunteers from UNCC. We’re so thankful for this work and the people who make it happen. We’re also involved in CARES (Coalition for Albemarle Road Elementary School) which meets once a month on their campus for various classes for the kids AND their parents. They have dinner and there are financial classes with translators (since the majority of this community doesn’t speak English as a first language), there are health and exercise classes, nutrition, ESL, arts and crafts… CARES more than anything is a way for ARPC to reach the community with a practical hand saying God loves you and cares for you, and so do we your neighbors. From VBS in the summer to the Easter Egg hunt in the spring we seek to reach our community through various means because God has called us to love our neighbors.
All of the work of the church in the past has been wonderful, and even the work that we are doing now by God’s grace is producing fruit for His kingdom. Yet the harvest is great and the workers are few. Our workers are tremendous, faithful, loving people who unselfishly give of their time and talents, sometimes on a daily basis. There is tremendous need in our community and we simply need more workers. Each week ARPC and its Mission Ministry Team receives a request for a new type of help or partnership. The Middle school and High school students in the community need tutoring help. We have met with the YMCA to brainstorm about partnerships. Second Harvest and Together We Feed have asked our help in serving the community. As in any good thing, with limited resources and limited man-power there is an inevitable end. ARPC doesn’t want to burn out, we want to SHINE!
That’s part of what this campaign is all about. To “SHINE” is not about us, it’s about God working His missional outreach through us to this community and beyond in a way where He gets ALL the glory. So what does it mean for ARPC to SHINE in the way of Missional Outreach in the coming years? Let me suggest some ways by breaking down the theme as an acronym.
SEND! In Acts 1 Jesus expands upon His Great Commission by explaining to the disciples that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them to be His witnesses in Jerusalem (community), Judea (town), Samaria (greater region), and to the ends of the earth (well, in the Greek it simply means to the ends of the earth). In Acts 13 the early church in Antioch where the disciples were first called Christians put this missional outreach program into action by praying for, laying hands upon, and sending out Paul and Barnabas to the mission field. ARPC has been faithful in the past by raising up our sons and daughters for the work of the ministry and we want to continue to SHINE in this way by intentionally training, equipping, and sending our people into the local, domestic, and foreign fields- the work of Christ’s mission to expand His Kingdom for the Glory of God. This is Jesus’ command, it is our calling, and we desire to be obedient in all He calls us to do including Missional Outreach.
HOST! Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so some have entertained angels!” ARPC’s history in hosting is superb. As mentioned before, many different congregations have been invited to meet on our campus for worship either while they raise funds for their own property, or because they are too small for those things. The joy in hosting is not only in seeing Burmese and Nepalese congregations meet here, but also in seeing our unsaved Burmese and Nepalese neighbors come to know Christ and be reached in a way that we could never have otherwise reached them. We are blessed to host, and the Kingdom of Christ is expanding through this hospitality! But we can do more. 40% of the population of our neighborhood is Spanish-speaking, yet we have yet to break into this particular cultural ministry. The vast majority of us don’t speak Spanish and because of the use of our current facilities we are maxed out for the opportunity to host. But think of the opportunity to SHINE! What if through this SHINE campaign, and through the renovation of the sanctuary we were able to open up the chapel space on Sunday mornings? Could it be that God is making a way for ARPC to expand our mission by either hosting a Spanish speaking congregation, or even better, by employing and developing our own ARPC Hispanic ministry hosting our immediate Spanish-speaking neighbors? I can only believe God is opening doors and calling ARPC forward in faith to SHINE in a greater way by hosting His Hispanic people in this community.
INVITE! You may ask yourself how inviting people to our church works to serve the Missional Outreach component. Here’s how it does… People want to serve. Most of the people I know, even non-believers, have a desire to be kind to the poor, to feed the homeless, to give gifts to kids who are not from affluent families. ARPC is uniquely and unapologetically situated right in the midst of a community that has immense need in these areas, and as I’ve said before, the harvesters are few. Those who serve in the mission of ARPC are faithful and hardworking, but because of expansive opportunities that stare us in the face we simply need more workers. In the past, Sunday School programs and Small Groups served as the rim of the funnel to get new folks into churches. Now most churches are seeing that missional activity is the tool that will get new people involved and hopefully open the door for the Gospel to be preached to them. Inviting someone to church might not be an enticing prospect, but inviting them to buy Christmas gifts for kids- that is something they would be interested in. And in the process of their showing kindness we invite them to deliver the gifts, meet others with the same interests, share the Gospel, and grow the Kingdom through the power of the Spirit- All praise to God!
NETWORK! We’re not in this alone. Throughout Paul’s journeys and missionary work among other things he raised funds for the poor Jerusalem congregation. Paul used his contacts and network to support a group of Christians who desperately need the help of their fellow brothers and sisters around the world. We have several networks of churches and individuals that can help us and that we can in turn help. One way we can SHINE in our Missional Outreach is in greater partnerships with CRU at UNCC, local mission groups and churches, foreign missionaries in Panama and Germany, and with our own ECO Mission Affinity Groups. This campaign is not only about raising funds, it’s about raising up people who will step into new roles to fulfill these goals that are laid out including networking so that we can SHINE for the Gospel and the Kingdom of Christ.
EVANGELIZE! If there is one area in which we need to grow it is here. Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5 “Do the work of an evangelist”. Whenever Paul went on his missionary journeys it was to grow the Kingdom by intentionally sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul’s message was simply that man in his natural state is dead in their sins and that through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ we have been saved- brought near to God where we were once lost. ARPC is really not about us. ARPC is an outpost of the Kingdom of Christ and God wants to SHINE through it by reaching the lost and saving them by His grace. This is evangelism. We need to build houses and churches. We need to feed the poor, clothe and heal the sick. We’re called to welcome the stranger and alien. But if we don’t share the Good News of Salvation by the Grace of God through Jesus Christ, all our good deeds are nothing.
We can think of several more Missional Outreach goals that fit into the passion of ARPC and our geographic location, and we should. For now, we want our people to be clear that our Missional Outreach is born out of calling and obedience. We desire to be more effective and more faithful, but we also desire to have a greater influence in the world. How can we do this? By SENDING, HOSTING, INVITING, NETWORKING, AND EVANGELIZING our neighbors and community. We want to SHINE but we can only do it together, praying for God’s continued power and walking in His grace.