The Faith in Action campaign helps cautious congregants practice their passion and find their purpose. (VIDEO)
Members of Cornerstone Bible Church in St. Petersburg, Fla., paint the side of a building as part of their Faith in Action Sunday — a ministry event during which the church's congregation sought to demonstrate Christ's love through service-oriented projects around the community. Photo courtesy of Cornerstone Bible Church.
The notion of a church cancelling Sunday morning services to fulfill its calling might seem counterintuitive at first glance.
Yet on Oct. 28, the congregation at Cornerstone Bible Church did just that — to "care for the people outside our walls more than for those within," as the church's Web site aptly describes its passion.
It all started last summer when the 130-member congregation in St. Petersburg, Fla., was introduced to Faith in Action, a four-week campaign that equips believers with practical tools to develop community-focused ministries and hearts to serve.
Members took to the idea, understanding their church's purpose: "calling people to Jesus Christ, so they may hear and know the call of God for their lives." Many initially responded with cautious optimism, says Pastor Bruce Reynolds, the church's ministries director.
A number of activities served to inspire congregants, including a church-wide Bible study on the book of Jonah — a story about "a guy who didn't wanna go," says a facetious Reynolds.
On Faith in Action Sunday, when services were cancelled to allow an opportunity for community ministry, some 80 members of the 11-month-old congregation headed off to the service projects for which they had signed up. Options included:
- Running a children's carnival at a nearby migrant work camp that involved renting inflatable toys and a snow cone machine, playing soccer, and supplying lunch as well as a bag of clothing and food to each family in attendance.
- Painting a local ministry facility at which disadvantaged women receive job and life-skills training.
- Restoring a house in disrepair (a project that took several days), owned by a single mom coming home from Iraq.
- Meeting the carpentry needs of the St. Petersburg Women's Club, the group from which Cornerstone Bible Church rents its facilities.
- Leading a church service at a local nursing home that involved music by the worship team and a sermon preached by Cornerstone's senior pastor.
- Cooking breakfast for families at the local Ronald McDonald House.
Participants debriefed that night, and the mood was palpable, says Reynolds.
"When the first person came back from their service project and said: 'I just need to tell you I went out apprehensive, but I really enjoyed it; now I want to do it again!' — almost every hand went up [in agreement]."
Video: Faith in Action
Watch a video about how the Faith in Action program allows churches to adapt a spirit of service in their communities, demonstrating Christ's love in the process.
So what did Cornerstone members take from their Faith in Action experience?
"It opened our eyes to the needs in our community and that those needs can be met easier than we anticipated," says Reynolds. "[Faith in Action] enables people to minister when they think they can't in non-threatening ways. It helps church members to realize: 'I'm … making a difference.'"
He adds that the experience helped the church's members to develop their God-given gifts and to discern their calling. "Faith in Action is a two-way street; it has impact on those we serve and those who are serving. Forty years from now, the children will never forget that day at the migrant camp!"
And now that Cornerstone Bible Church has gotten its feet wet in local ministry, members have been thinking about other ways to get involved in community ministry, Reynolds says. "We've been in touch with our local city government, asking how we can serve, and we're continuing to brainstorm."
>> See video and pictures
from Faith in Action churches, including Cornerstone Bible Church.
>> Read a St. Petersburg Times article
about Cornerstone Bible Church's Faith in Action experience.
Two ways you can help
>> Thank God for the way Faith in Action helped Cornerstone Bible Church's members to see the needs in their community and realize they make a difference. Pray that God's love and compassion for all people would be demonstrated through Faith in Action projects around the country, as it has been through Cornerstone Bible Church's work.
>> Become a Faith in Action church. Share God's love with your community in a tangible, meaningful way.