Friday, December 18

A Small Church Doing Big Things

It was in the auditorium of Oak Manor Christian Church, in April of 1982, that Gina and I were asked to come to Fayetteville and begin the ministry of Christ on Campus. It was there that the first pledges of financial support were given. A few weeks later, folks from Oak Manor moved our meager belongings to Arkansas and stored them in the church basement until we moved in to our apartment. Until we began having Sunday services at the Rockhouse in the Fall of 2005, Oak Manor was our family's church home. And, in many ways, it still is.

Oak Manor has never been a large church, or even a medium-sized church. Their attendance right now probably runs at about 40-50 on Sunday mornings. But they have proved themselves to be a Body that reaches far beyond what most would expect and that has a vision and a heart that is Kingdom-wide.

In regard to our Christ on Campus ministry, they support us in important and personal ways. Yes, they give financially. But they do much more than that. For 28 years, they have provided and prepared our Thanksgiving Banquet. What began in our living room in 1982 now serves about 300 students each year. It's a huge undertaking for a small group of people, but one that they do joyously and abundantly. They also provide "Finals Survival Kits" for our students each Fall and Spring. And they do these things, knowing that the vast majority of the students who are served will never attend their services and may not remember the congregation's name.

When our Board discerned a few years ago that God was leading us to start a service geared for students next to campus, Oak Manor graciously sent us out. They saw what we were doing on campus as an extension of God's Kingdom and their part in it - even though the change meant that they would lose some key people from their congregation.

But their vision is bigger than just that. My wife is a kindergarten teacher. Her school is one that faces many challenges. At least 75% of the students don't speak English as their first language. But more than that, about 95% are on a free-lunch program and many return to homes where hunger is often the norm. So Oak Manor decided to adopt the school. During this school year, this small congregation with a huge vision and heart has supplied hundreds of pounds of food for families in the school who are in need. This week, they provided Christmas gift bags for each of the over 600 students in the school, as well as the teachers.

Keith Mackey, the pastor at Oak Manor, will probably never be invited to preach at big conferences or interviewed by Christianity Today magazine. Those things are reserved for mega-church pastors with big attendances and buildings and budgets. The congregation will never make a list of the largest or most influential churches in the nation. But in the lives of those 600+ children, they make a huge difference. In the lives of the college students they serve through our ministry, they make a huge difference.

The title of this post is a misleading. To call Oak Manor a small church is inaccurate because it uses the wrong standard of measurement. My guess is that in the eyes of God, they are huge. After all, God is in the habit of judging people (and churches) by the size of the heart.

But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." I Samuel 16:7

"I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40

1 comment:

jonathan perrodin said...

Good word. More of use need to realize this for our own life. We enter adulthood with all the dreams, goals, aspirations of twenty years of cultural indoctrination. As a Christian adult we so easily and simply just translate the world's understanding of success into our Christian lives. We want to be the biggest and best--when Christ says to be the greatest we must be the least. Something to really ponder.