At the Moravian Church of Lebanon, we designated a Sunday in April as “Take a Friend to Church Sunday” where members could invite their friends who were not associated with a church to come and worship with them. As part of the day, the evangelism committee thought it would be a good idea to have a luncheon after worship so that we could have a time of fellowship with those who took the time to come and worship with us. We had no idea how many people would attend, so we simply prepared a lot of food.
Several members brought friends that day and we had a wonderful time of worship and fellowship. Even with big appetites, however, we had and a lot of food left over. Instead of having it go to waste, we decided we would offer this delicious food to the Lebanon Rescue Mission.
As we gathered the leftover food to send to the Mission, the “The Parable of the Great Dinner” in Luke 14 came to mind. Not all the guests that the king invited to the banquet came, so he sent and called people from the street to come to the banquet so that none of his food would go to waste. Not all the friends we invited to come and worship and dine with us showed up that day, so we took that was left and fed those at the Rescue Mission so that nothing would go to waste.
What we didn’t know is that sending the food to the rescue mission would give birth to a new ministry opportunity for our congregation. When the food was delivered we discovered that other churches in the area had signed up to help prepare and serve meals at the Rescue Mission every Sunday afternoon. There were still three Sundays remaining for this year that no church had signed up for, so we signed up for one of them. Going forward, we hope to sign up for two Sundays in 2017, and we already have members who are willing to be a part of this new ministry.
As I try to discern the Lord’s message in this for us, I believe I heard God saying that we need to move beyond the comfort zone of our church building and go into our community and share the love of Christ with our neighbors. Our plan that Sunday was to celebrate our friends through worship and fellowship, and we did. But God also led us out to some other friends that probably had a greater need for the food we prepared.
Feeding the hungry has been part of our ministry for several years. Lebanon has an elevated unemployment rate, placing a greater demand on the Lebanon County Christian Ministry (LCCM) Food Bank. At one of our elders’ meeting we decided that we needed to do something to help, and at the start of 2014 God led us as a congregation to start a food pantry to support the food bank. Members can donate non-perishable food that we then we deliver to the LCCM. In two and a half years since the pantry was launched, our congregation has donated approximately 2,500 pounds of food items to the LCCM food bank.
Now we rejoice in the fact that God has pointed us to another need in our community, another way we can help feed the hungry. Where God will lead us next, we don’t know but we continue to discern.
Lloyd Gooden is pastor of Lebanon Moravian Church in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.