Last weekend I ran into a guy named Ivan and heard his story. He works with a ministry called Steeple to People. Their purpose is to bring the Church to People by utilizing the skills, talents, and resources of Christians to meet the needs in their community. Their statement of faith includes a declaration to cooperate and not to compete. Since my meeting with Ivan was brief, most of what I learned about his story came from others.
An elderly gentleman, Ivan is known by most folks in town including the senior citizens, teenagers, police, town council members…and well, just about everyone. For the last twenty plus years Ivan has been investing in his local community. If someone has a problem, they call Ivan. He fixes their things, helps with basic needs, oversees funerals, settles estates, and generally cares for whoever he meets. He also shares his testimony everywhere he goes.
Ivan serves under a group of people from the local community. This board has representation from various denominations including the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Mennonite churches in town. They all collaborate on one thing—serving their community. They all believe that only by working together can they make a difference in their neighborhood. Presently a youth center, a thrift store, and refuge house exist in this town as a result of their united vision.
It all started over 25-30 years ago when the local Presbyterian Church started Steeple to People Ministries. It wasn’t long before Ivan was involved and his farm became the epicenter for local mission. It was just the right environment for vacation Bible school and kids’ clubs. In fact, when recruiters hit the streets to mobilize children for events all they had to do was mention Ivan and his farm. No more questions were asked; Ivan’s reputation had preceded him, and anything connected to him had everyone’s support.
Ivan’s story intrigued me so I decided to call him for more information. “We don’t even think about denominations,” Ivan told me on the phone this afternoon. “All that matters is that we are born again.” He went on to tell me about a Bible study he and his wife lead at a local senior citizen apartment complex every Tuesday night. A Catholic lady has been attending those for the last 6-8 years.
Ivan is a Conservative Mennonite man. He still holds to his convictions. But Ivan has concluded that much of his Christian faith is the same as other local Christians. He understands that majoring on the minor issues that divide so many believers flies in the face of what Christ had in mind. He also realizes the impact he can have on his broken community when he aligns himself with what God is already doing through the local body.
So here’s my question for you: What will it take for your church to reach your community? Where can you join God where He is already at work around you? Can you unite on the essentials of your faith with other Christ-followers and dare to overlook the 5-10% of controversial non-essentials that tend to divide so many? The Kingdom is at stake.