You walk into the building on Sunday morning, greeted by smiling faces eager to hand you the sermon outline. You get inside and take your seat, ready to worship and ready to listen: you are at church. Church. What comes to mind when you hear the word?
A quick Google search defines church as “a building used for public Christian worship.” Imagine walking in on Sunday morning and there are no smiling faces to greet you at the door; no one on stage to lead worship; no one to sit next to; no pastor to share God’s word. If church is just an empty building, then why does it matter if we show up?
1 Corinthians 12:27 says, “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” You are the church. We are the church. People are the church. Even if we truly know church is more than a building, do we always think of church beyond our four walls and outside our own congregation?
In An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor says, “What happens to the rest of the world when we build four walls–even four gorgeous walls–cap them with a steepled roof, and designate that the House of God . . . “What happens to the people who never show up in our houses of God?”
When we view church as Christ’s united body it becomes less about receiving and more about giving. As Christ’s body we are called to love our neighbors and as simple as that sounds it can feel overwhelming in a world full of hurt.
But we believe there are practical ways to love our neighbors through unity and service. Our models are not meant to replace the church, but rather provide tools and build relationships to empower and support the local church. The church is not restricted by four walls, but made up of mobile bodies: the church can be brought out visibly into the community, where it can be felt and experienced.
If you are looking to serve individually or as a local church in collaboration with other churches, here are 5 practical ways you can bring the church beyond four walls:
1.) Prayer Team
Be a prayer warrior. Commit to praying for the movement of uniting to serve on a regular basis: that every neighborhood, everywhere, will experience the compassionate service of the united Church. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to join the team!
Smile and connect with people at Compassion Clinics. Learn their names and faces. Hear what they have to say. This opportunity allows you to support local churches that are collaborating to host free medical/dental clinics, by fostering a friendly and inviting atmosphere, while taking simple guest surveys that help us understand the relational, spiritual and physical effectiveness of the clinics. No experience necessary, just a relational heart!
Did you know 300,000 youth are at-risk of becoming a victim of exploitation every year in the United States? You can be a mentor in the life of a young woman to prevent this sobering statistic. Mentors invest in the lives of girls from vulnerable backgrounds by providing fun activities (everything from arts and crafts to volleyball to beach trips!) and helping with homework.
4.) Buy (or donate) for a cause
Be a socially-conscious shopper. Do you have a wedding or formal event coming up? Choose to purchase a dress that gives back. When you purchase an Adorned in Grace dress you are helping women and children in your community who are being sexually exploited. Or, on the other hand, do you have a wedding or formalwear gown sitting in your closet that you want to make a difference in someone’s life? Old gowns take on new significance when donated to Adorned In Grace.
5.) Start a Compassion Clinic (or volunteer at one!)
Be the Church to broken communities by bringing a free one day health clinic to your most vulnerable neighbors. This is a practical way to bring your faith beyond four walls and address the holistic health needs of your neighbors (body, mind, and spirit!), while serving alongside friends.
As you pursue avenues of service know that when you have a heart for Christ and a passion to serve his people every act counts. You are part of the Church of your neighborhood and you have the opportunity to bring Christ into your community; whether it is through a prayer, a dress or a “hello,” each act makes a difference.
Each act brings the church beyond four walls and invites more people in.