“Sometimes the most powerful work within the church happens outside its walls.”
Pretty good quote, huh? I’m thinking about patenting it. When I say it, I’m referring to the Southview Grace Brethren Church of Ashland, Ohio. Over the last twelve years at Southview, I have been sprinkled in Sunday school, youth group, and sermons. I recall, especially during the turbulent teen years, the words of the Bible and God’s character becoming more real to me each week. My pastors and peers alike helped to feed me spiritually, making me all the hungrier for it. I was baptized by our then-pastor, Larry Edwards and my youth group leader, Mark Abel, when I was 16.
Southview is a solid brick building with a modest congregation, garnering an attendance of several hundred on a good weekend. My family and I bounced around several houses of worship before we pinpointed on the message being delivered at Southview, despite it being such a small church.
Southview may be small, but the staff and congregation work hard to offer leadership in any age group that walks through the doors. There’s BLAST, a Sunday School program for kids, the Women’s Titus 2 Bible study, and weekly potlucks in the modest fellowship hall. From secretary Sue to our high school puppet team, Acting Up, everyone is encouraged to be involved. And all those options and opportunities are great to find in any church because fellowship is part of the Christian faith.
Yet the Bible studies and the weekly gatherings aren’t the snaps of memory that come to me when I look back on our family’s years in attendance. Rather, it’s the times I spent outside the walls of Southview, spreading our ministry to people near and far.
I can still taste the pear baby food I was forced to swallow at youth group initiation. That and cramming eight squirming bodies into a complete stranger’s bath tub during the annual Christmas scavenger hunt. I recall hauling a whole household of furniture into a family’s new home; and praying with a teary-eyed mother afterwards. Then there’s reliving the Bible stories I told the kids in a 4-foot-x-4-foot Sunday School room in Washington D.C., only to find out later that a couple of adults had been listening, captivated, outside the doorway.
The point here is this: the leaders and members of Southview have created a mission field that continues to be nurtured outside the walls of their church. Larry Edwards preached it in his time as pastor and Mark Abel, his successor, does the same: the people in their pews already have the glory of God inside them– now it’s their job to take that glory, that hope and love, and present it to someone who hasn’t witnessed it yet. — by Haley Bradfield
Haley Bradfield is a 2013 graduate of Grace College & Theological Seminary. She emphasizes her love for God as much as her love of writing. She is currently working at an internship in downtown Indianapolis. Send Haley a note of encouragment at email@example.com.
This story first appeared in GraceConnect eNews. To subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter that includes news and information from congregations in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, click here.