Some people think that churches are like social clubs or
extended families: They suppose that they exist to serve their
members, providing assistance, programs or activities for their
members while ignoring the communities that exist around them.
Some people think that churches are like social clubs or extended families: They suppose that they exist to serve their members, providing assistance, programs or activities for their members while ignoring the communities that exist around them.
Morgan Hill Bible Church has been a successful part of South County for the past 25 years, but its leadership has become aware that there has been a tendency for the congregation to “sometimes be about ourselves,” according to Lead Pastor David Whitaker.
Over the past two years they have begun changing their goal from being “the best church in the community” to becoming “the best church for the community.”
Over the course of six weeks, small groups studied a book entitled “The Externally Focused Life,” seeking to change the congregation’s awareness of their need to minister to residents outside their church. While 84 percent of the congregation was participating in this effort, Pastor Whitaker preached a series of sermons exploring the many possibilities for joining God at work in the community.
Whitaker referred to the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “You are the light of the world.” Like the lamp, we must shed light among our fellows, so that, when they see the good we do, they may give praise to our father in heaven.
It is not that Morgan Hill Bible Church has failed to engage in community outreach in the past; it has. For example, Whitaker has served as a volunteer chaplain for the Morgan Hill Police Department for the past five years. But the effort now is to engage all its members in “more intentional” activity in this regard, to find more opportunities “to display the love and grace of Jesus Christ” at work in the world.
There are many instances of this external focus apparent already:
– When MHBC combined efforts with Crossroads Christian Church last Thanksgiving to feed the hungry, they were able to provide meals to 500 families. This year the church is seeking additional partners, hoping to provide meals for even more.
– On Sept. 25, teenagers from the church joined with other local volunteers in the annual California Coastal Cleanup Day and removed trash and other debris from local creeks.
– The church joins others in supporting schools in the Mexican border town of San Luis. Donations have provided a sound system, teachers’ desks and school supplies.
– On Sunday evenings, members of the congregation visit Valley Pines Convalescent Home, speaking with the lonely and listening to the residents’ stories.
– They are partnering with a church in Los Altos to support a ministry to slum-dwellers in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for people who live in cardboard shacks and suffer from a high infection rate of HIV-AIDS.
– They support Advent Group Homes, a San Jose-based ministry that provides housing for troubled teens.
– The Jasmine Square housing development is the site of an after school children’s program sponsored by the church.
– The church was involved in Downtown Morgan Hill’s Safe Halloween program. While children were trick-or-treating, they could visit a free face-painting booth and play baseball at a miniature ballpark.
– Members of the congregation provide free childcare for at risk families attending the Parent Support Class offered through the police department.
– Plans are under way to establish a Kids Club at P.A. Walsh School in cooperation with other churches. This program will offer free after school recreation and instruction on a weekly basis to interested students.
Many may be suspicious about the church’s motives in taking part in these activities, but Whitaker said it is not for proselytism (seeking converts).
“We want to reflect who Jesus Christ has called us to be, to demonstrate the reality of His message of grace,” he said. “We come together not to feel good about ourselves, but to offer the hope of Jesus Christ in life’s challenges.”
Morgan Hill Bible Church welcomes partnerships with other community groups and also notification about other areas of need in the community.
For more information, call the church office at (408) 778-5083 or go to morganhillbible.org.