According to Pastor Johnathan Lewis – “[Serving our community] is like chickenpox!”
In describing the impact reaching out into their community, Pr. Lewis focused on the infectious excitement that serving has brought to their small congregation.
St. Matthew is located in Walnut Park in North St. Louis City. It has long had a focus on providing Christian education to the community with its preschool and elementary school. Yet in the past few years, a greater vision has sparked the imagination of the congregation to be an anchor in an underserved community. From providing a food pantry to opening a community computer lab to inviting the neighborhood to make use of their gym, the church is seeking ways to best meet the community’s needs.
Yet changing their church culture to be outward reaching has not come overnight. The leadership has tried to lead by example as well as preach about servitude in sermons and then provide ways to apply what the congregation is learning through service opportunities. Members voiced concerns about having sufficient financing and the capacity to do outreach. However, as members have seen that they don’t have to do something extravagant to show the community that they care, they have been empowered to build relationships and break down barriers. They are able to see the visible impact in the lives of the people they touch, which is spilling into their congregation. There is “a different glow about why they’re here”.
The church has been able to work with Send Me St. Louis as a Send Me Saturday host site to increase their manpower to achieve their goals. They’re hosting another project this year – offering a health fair to the community and hopefully holding the grand opening of the community computer lab.
St. Matthew continues to pursue being a vibrant body of disciples that supports its community. Vicar Lewis challenges everyone to remember that Jesus’ teachings are full of command words. No challenge is too big for Him, so when you see an opportunity, pray upon it and then… do it!