December 2009

By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY

NEW YORK — Susan Hong stops Pastor Tim Keller as he dashes up the steps of a Baptist church on a hectic corner of Broadway and West 79th Street.

She heard him preach at 10:30 a.m. on the Upper East Side. Now she has brought friends to hear him at the West Side 5 p.m. service. He briefly greets her, then slips into the service just before his sermon.

In 45 minutes, before the final hymn, Keller’s gone — off to deliver the same sermon, “The Gospel Changes Everything,” on the East Side. Then, again, Keller, founder and senior pastor of Manhattan‘s Redeemer Presbyterian Church, will dash back to West 79th Street for his fourth service of the day at three leased locations.

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Yesterday I was attended a meeting at Christ-Ballenger Creek UMC church.   I walked in the aroma of fresh baked cookies which filled the vestibule and the sanctuary. After our meeting I saw the reason for the cookies. Christ Church is next door to a middle school and when the school let out hundreds of children came to the church for their afternoon snack.  Some  played Wii some did their homework, and just hung out as parents picked some of the children up outside and others began their journey home on foot I was rejoicing at seeing a congregation involved in market place ministry that made sense and made a difference.  Some of the young people said that instead of going home to wait until their parents got home they enjoyed being with their friends and making friends with some of the people from the church.  Yeah GOD! Yeah Christ –Ballenger Creek!

This morning while I stood at the bus stop with my daughter I was pleasantly surprised for a van to pull up and three joyful people jumped out offering the parents coffee and hot chocolate along with a simple card that said God loves you and the address of the church. With three busses going through the sub division picking up about 75 students that is a lot of contact with parents that might never step into a church.  I began to wonder how many parents at other bus stops would have also appreciated a hot cup of hot chocolate on a cold day. How many churches do we have where a group of three people would be willing to give 2 hours of service to sharing the love of God with their neighbors? That was the first time I had experienced such radical hospitality as servant evangelism and became recommitted to proclaiming that every pastor and congregation should be involved in marketplace ministry and servant evangelism.

As I work with churches that are attempting to engage marketplace ministry or servant evangelism for the first time, I understand how it can be overwhelming to start and make a large enough impact that it feels “worth while”.  Anytime we serve someone because of the love of God that we have experienced we are introducing people to God whose grace is available to those outside of a personal relationship with God.  So the simple key is to figure out what makes sense for your ministry context and available resources and to get started as soon as possible.