A small congregation reaches out in a big way
by Mark Kimmet
Pastor of 3:16 Christian Community Church, Hickory, N.C.
3:16 Christian Community Church is a relatively small group that has made it our mission to be a big part of our surrounding community.
We are located in a suburban setting on the edge of Hickory, N.C. We began our creative reputation by purchasing a building in 2016 that was never meant to be a church, and ‘redeeming’ what used to be an office building into the gathering place for our fellowship. We rooted ourselves in the surrounding community, not in a gaudy church structure, but in a humble, common place. The steps we took to ‘repurpose’ an existing structure is positively noted by those who live near it.
I will highlight three efforts that our church is making to reach those outside our church walls.
The first is through outdoor summer cookouts. The idea grew out of a presentation I heard Art McPhee give about his experiences with church efforts in Florida. This is a creative way to invite the surrounding community to a time of food and fellowship. The goal is to engage those who would, for various reasons, never enter through the doors of a church. But attitudes can change when they see those that make up the church in an everyday atmosphere of friendliness and fellowship.
This summer was our third year putting on these cookouts and, in a time when most of us drive by countless churches to get to our own, it is such a wonderful sight to see individuals in the community walking with food in hand to the outdoor cookout at their church next door. Does anyone walk to church anymore? The community around 3:16 CCC does!
The second effort I would like to highlight is our Community Garden. This was our first year and it was a complete experiment. We had vacant land and I have a weakness for heirloom tomatoes, so it just made sense to turn it into a useful extension of our church outreach. While it was a lot of work (any new idea is), it accomplished exactly what was intended—community involvement and interaction.
When it became known that this garden was for everyone in the community as a witness to the mission of the church and the edible provision of God, it became an instant success. We learned a lot and are excited for next year’s efforts at bringing the community to the church in a display of love and good tomatoes!
The third effort is working with local Baptist churches in the community to provide coordinated efforts to help and reach those who are struggling. In the past we have partnered with these churches in “A Love Your Community” event that provided a free dental examination to those in need. We are also working with them for a combined Thanksgiving event.
It is encouraging to see the trust and cooperation these other denominations are giving to our church, extending the right hand of fellowship as followers of Christ. It is an important way of strengthening our community with the teamwork of various denominational leaders, all seeking to help the same people.
We look forward to the new and creative ways we can share the love of God that is in Jesus Christ to our surrounding community, knowing that what keeps people out of the church is many times a fear of the church. Many times the love we can show to those in our community drives out that fear and we see the shame and pain of sin being cleansed by the shed blood of Christ, one person at a time.