Bless the World Announcement

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Smith Hopkins | April 3, 2018

On April 1, 2018 the elders and ministers announced a new ministry for Oliver Creek. You can listen to the recording and read along to some of the highlights of the announcement. At the end is a link to a survey--we'd like to hear from you!

In 1957, a young woman named Frances Hester was asked to decorate a bulletin board inside a Memphis area church. It was just before Christmas time, so she chose to make the theme about blessing. She selected Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” As she stared at the words and reflected on their meaning, she remembered a couple she passed by just that morning who needed help. Elderly, poorly dressed, and dirty. The man walked with a crutch and was missing a leg. Looking at her board there inside the church building, Frances was confronted with a reality many of us have faced. She asked herself, “What am I doing? Here I am putting this bulletin board up, and there is a couple needing help right outside.”

Have you ever felt that gap between what you know you should do and what you actually do? Yeah, me too. And I don’t think it’s just me and Frances.

A new ministry?

Our mission at Oliver Creek is to be a church where people are transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. Transformed people glorify God, love one another, and bless the world. When it comes to blessing the world, we know it part of God’s mission--just as much as glorifying God and loving one another--but then when we look at what we’re doing as a church, we see evidence of a gap. For example:

  • Fewer than 10% of our members participate in an OC ministry that blesses the world ministry.
  • We struggle to effectively evangelize. Church researchers estimate a church our size needs 30-40 baptisms per year to be adding to the kingdom. We’ve never had more than 10.
  • Our own survey results have shown that, of all our ministries, we are weakest when it comes to equipping the church to bless the world in our community. 

There are many reasons, but part of it is that we just don’t have a weekly, congregational ministry tied to blessing the world. Glorify God? Yes, every week in our worship assemblies. Love one another? Yes, every week in our Bible classes. Bless the world? No, you mostly have to be free during the day on weekdays to participate. That rules out most all of us.

But what might be possible if we could create a ministry for all of us every week? We believe the potential for blessing the world goes way up and the potential for our own transformation goes up with it.

You may be thinking, when will I have time to add another thing to my schedule? We get it. You’re busy. So are we. It’s not realistic to add a new ministry. Instead, we'd like to give a new purpose to an existing ministry. We believe our best opportunity to equip OC to bless the world is to make it the purpose of our Sunday night ministry.

Beginning in August, the purpose of our Sunday night ministry will be to bless the world.

Why this ministry?

Our reasons why have to do with the answers to another question we often ask—how does transformation happen? Here are three important convictions.

First, God’s grace is always the mechanism for our spiritual growth. If we want to be transformed, we had better focus on God. It we want to bless, we start with Him.

Second, God’s grace leads us to a new set of habits. The majority of what we learn doesn’t come from teaching, it’s comes from doing. If you really want to get better at something--if you really want to change--you have to put it into practice. At OC, we have a great set of habits based on the life of Jesus and the history of the church called the Transforming GRACES.

Third, God’s grace works on us especially through relationships. (Of course relationships are also where God works through us to reach other people too.) This is the strategy of Jesus and the early church for a reason. We help one another grow. In the church, the mature followers of Jesus have an obligation to mentor the younger in the faith. Which is fitting since kids today especially need these wise Christian relationships. Studies show that “the closest thing to a silver bullet” for building a faith that lasts in kids is worship and service alongside other generations of Christians.

Here’s how these convictions come together to bless the world at OC. We plan to use the GRACES as a Sunday night curriculum, so to speak. Each month we will practice the GRACES together and with the world. For example, in August we will use Sunday nights to give thanks together and in the community. In September, we will reflect on the word together and in the community. You get the idea. Each week of the month will have a different way of applying the GRACES to bless the world. Let me break it down.

What will a month in the GRACES look like?

Week 1: Gather and praise. If we’re going to bless the world, it’s only because we’ve been blessed by God. If we hope to be transformed, it’s only by God’s grace. Week 1 of each month  is a built in reminder for us that God is why we bless. Each month will begin with all of us gathering together to worship God.

Week 2: Guide and prepare. If we’re going to bless the world, many of us need to know how. Week 2 focuses all of us on biblical and practical ways of putting our faith into practice. If the focus of the first week is worship, the focus of the second week is teaching. By looking at how  God guides his people to bless the world in Scripture, we can train our members to go and do likewise.

Week 3: Go and practice. This is where it gets exciting and maybe a little new. In week 3 of each month, groups will go into the world to bless. They’re called Bless Groups. We will go out and do the GRACES in the world, in our community, and with our neighbors. (More on Bless Groups in a moment.)

Week 4: Grow and process. In week 4, the Bless Groups will gather in a members' home to share a meal together and to process the entire month. They will fellowship and reflect together on each week of the month--the worship, the teachings, and their experiences and challenges. Each month the Bless Group wills prayerfully encourage one another to live out God’s blessing in our normal walks of life.

Week 5: Invite. Each quarter—when there’s a fifth Sunday in the month—OC will host a special event for us to invite and encourage all our contacts we’ve met in the community. The goal is to show our neighbors a next step for transformation and an entry point into the life of our church and the life of following Jesus Christ.

What is a Bless Group?

Here’s where the power of relationships comes back in. We plan to send Bless Groups into the community on week 3 and into members’ homes on week 4. So what will a Bless Group be like?

  • Size? Bless Groups will have about a dozen people in them. That way each group can meet comfortably in a home or other smaller environments like a nursing home.
  • Leaders? Bless Groups will be led by experienced mentors and another couple to help with coordination. We want people with a track record of blessing to show the rest of us how to do it. The elders will provide oversight, and the ministry staff will help leaders by lining up many opportunities to choose from each month.
  • Who is in which group? Bless Groups are not just for one age group, they are designed to be multi-generational. That way kids can serve alongside their parents and other godly examples too. Instead of age, we want to group by where you live. The closer we live to our group members, the easier it is to get together, to help one another, and to bless our shared neighbors.

Are you unsure about groups or going out into the community? We understand that many are more comfortable at the building on Sunday nights, for a variety of reasons. The good news is that there is a Bless Group for you too which will meet at the building on weeks 3-4. We will work with a mature mentors to plan activities to bless the world from the building. 

More blessed to give

That day many years ago, Frances stared at the bulletin board with those words of Jesus on her heart—“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Convicted, Frances left the building, found the couple, and asked how she could help. She took their clothes home to wash, she began to help them find housing and employment. One Christian brother provided him a job. The Mayor of Memphis even got involved to help provide a prosthetic leg for him. Soon the man became a follower of Jesus and was baptized.

Recalling that day decades later, Frances said, “I’m so thankful I went out to them that day. You just never know when you’re going to make a difference.”

Amen, sister! That's the prayer in this ministry. 

What's next? Later this summer we will recruit group leaders, register for groups, and get set to kick off in August. 

Survey!

We would love to hear your feedback. Click here to take a quick survey. Thank you!

 

Smith Hopkins