I walked into that church sanctuary for the first time this morning. It’s a local church, a good local church. Been there a long time, served a lot of people. I really appreciate places like that...especially in a world where it seems everyone, including churches, is trying to build the biggest, the nicest, the best, the most popular. The small town, community church has really been cast aside. Many of them are struggling to pay the bills because they can’t compete with the big, multi-site model when it comes to the quality of worship. Many of them are losing their ability to pay their ministers. It’s sad really.
This place has lost its share, but it keeps on going. I would say probably because of the hearts of the people that lead it. I’ve gotten to know those people pretty well over the last few years. They are one of the only two churches that have been faithful to bringing a group to serve every month at House of the Harvest. I never worry about having enough volunteers on their Saturday. Twice a month they buy meat for all of our families that come on Saturday mornings. I don't know how long it has been since you may have priced it, but two hundred packs of hot dogs or lunch meat isn’t cheap. They’ve never missed a Saturday. Faithful would be a good word to describe it. Yes, I would call them “faithful.”
It’s all these reasons and more that I knew exactly who to call when one of our families lost a member. They asked me to preach the funeral and the funeral home wasn’t exactly affordable. I knew where to turn. And I knew they would come through.
So when I walked in this morning, they had already been a blessing. They didn’t charge a fee. Didn’t ask any questions. Didn’t give me a list of things not to do, or not to touch, or places not to go. They didn’t ask who the funeral was for, why they needed a place, what their standing was with God, or how many people would be in attendance. No questions. No conversation at the next board meeting. No “need to see how our donors feel about it” discussion. It was a breath of fresh air. I was already encouraged and inspired.
Yes, when I walked in the door, they had already graciously done everything I had asked for. But they went the second mile when I didn’t have to unload my audio equipment because I could use theirs. And I didn’t have to get out my computer because they made theirs available to me. And they dug around through the rarely used chords to find what I needed so the family could hear the songs they wanted to hear. And all of this while they had a family reunion for one of their most prominent families going on in another part of the facility at the exact same time.
The family desiring that service had no money to give them. They had no connection to the church. And they had nothing to offer them. There were only a handful of people at the memorial service but, to me, that gesture spoke volumes.
There is still something to be said for the community church. That is, the church that desires to meet the needs of its’ community, starting with the people that need it most. I think that may be where we have gotten lost in America these days. Our country. Our churches. Our schools. Our everything. Many of us just have too much. We live in a world where we keep seeking the increase. We live in a world that constantly seeks to be bigger and better. We forget about the people that don’t have, have never had, and probably won’t ever have. The gap just grows and grows.
So to that little church that thinks about, cares about, and reaches out to the least among us with their money, their people, and even their facilities...I would say, “thank you.” Because it means a lot. A whole lot. It means a lot to a family that couldn’t afford a memorial service in a nice facility anywhere else in town. It means a lot to an individual that is still pulling for the small community church with the closeness, compassion, and all it represents. It means a lot to an organization that believes, no matter where you go to church, no matter how big or how small, no matter what your worship style or preference, no matter how you feel about everyone else’s … shouldn’t followers of Jesus be more concerned about coming together and representing His likeness to the rest of the world around us?
What that little church on the corner in Harvest, Alabama did yesterday spoke volumes to me. They didn’t have to mention it to anyone. They didn’t have to get anything in return. They didn’t have to do anything...except the right thing, for someone that could do nothing for them. I think Jesus would have done that.
“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:46-48