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Beyond the four walls

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Exploring churches' roles in the community

By Leslie Moore

 

From cleaning gutters to fixing storm doors to providing school supplies, Pastor Jamie Bennett says a lot of great things have been happening since the congregation of Green River Memorial Baptist Church has made taking care of its members a main priority.

With each Sunday school class being encouraged to take on individual ministry projects, Bennett says the church has realized the value of working from within.

"That's not to say that we don't look outside the church, but the Bible's pretty clear; if you're not taking care of the people you've got, you don't need to be looking for more."

And according to Bennett, once a church gets a reputation for taking care of its people, those who need to be taken care of will come.

While a ride to the beauty shop sounds simple, Bennett said it could mean the world to someone who is no longer able to jump in the car and go.

He said the church's main community outreach event is its Agape Shop, a one-stop Christmas shop intended to show God's love to lower-income families by providing them with new and gently used clothing, toys, groceries and household items donated by church members. Transportation will also be provided.

Bennett said the Agape Shop is just one of many ministries happening in Campbellsville that shows the community's heart for helping people.

"There's a heart to want to make a genuine difference and point somebody toward God and Christ in that process," Bennett said. "And [the people of Campbellsville] are good at that. They're excellent at it. Probably better than any town I've ever seen."

Bennett said he believes the role of the church is to not to be an engine of change in a town outright, but instead to shape the people who make the community.

"The church functions best when the church changes a person, and then the person changes the town," Bennett said.

He said this is important if the church is to continue being that place people will go when they're resistant to almost anything else.

In his five years at GRMBC, Bennett said he has learned that people who would never talk to a marriage counselor or those dealing with other personal problems will confide in their preacher. And for Bennett, who admits to a struggle with an introverted personality, serving as marriage counselor and even financial advisor to many people in the congregation can be very draining. Yet at the same time, it is one of the most enjoyable parts of his job.

He said the church is, has been and, if it keeps her heart where it should be, will always be a safe place to go for help.

"And the day that we cease to help people, that we cease to change people, and the day that we become more focused on changing things is the day that we kind of lost the soul of what I think Christ has called us to be," Bennett said.

For more information about the Agape Shop, call the church office at 465-6032.

A Series

This story is the second in a series exploring the role of churches in the community. To recommend a pastor for the series, contact Leslie Moore at 465-8111 or lmoore@cknj.com.