I had the opportunity to speak to a WMU group in our city this past Monday as part of the Baptist Women Day of Prayer observance. This is a part of what I shared with them.
I became passionate about reaching people through community after Henry was born and we were spending more time in the community, at the library, park, museum, and Kindermusik. We began to build relationships with people who were good people, but many of whom were lost and on their way to hell because they did not have a personal relationship with Jesus.
At the same time, we also began some outreach opportunities at church in the Colony trailer park. We became aware of just how many needs can be found in that neighborhood, how much poverty and crime, and how many children are living in homes where they have no biblical foundation.
Through what we learned there, our church revamped our food pantry ministry into something more – it moved from a food closet that our secretary used to give food to people into a scheduled, once a week ministry with a staff of volunteers who thoughtfully put together bags of food for families, and who also meet with and pray for those who come seeking help.
In the last six months, our food pantry has had 500 visits, just over 83 each month. We know that those 500 visits actually represent 1,935 people fed in the last six months, which is just over 322 a month. And that’s just operating four times a month, one afternoon each week.
We have seen fruit from that ministry. Just two weeks ago, we had a lady attend a Sunday morning service and receive Christ, all because of the witness of our food pantry volunteers and the volunteers who open our church gym to those living in trailers during storms. Praise the Lord!
But let me back up and tell you a little about what we have learned about hunger and poverty in our area of Daviess County:
In 2015, the US Census Bureau reported that for our zip code alone, 13% of all families are living below the poverty level.
In a home with a female householder, no husband present, and children under the age of 5, this number jumps to 65.9%.
Talkpoverty.org reports that Kentucky ranks 5th overall in the US for the greatest level of poverty.
17.6% of Kentuckians experience food insecurity, which means that they have difficulty providing food for their families due to a lack of money.
Think about the people who live in your neighborhood, go to your church, or who you meet in your daily rounds. Could any of them fall into this category? We have learned not to make assumptions about people by looking at only what we can see. We have learned that if people have to make a choice between paying the rent and utilities or buying food, they will choose paying the rent. People you pass each day may be hungry and you might not know it. Poverty creates a division, and people are embarrassed to admit their struggle.
These statistics are quite shocking, aren’t they? But let me share another statistic with you.
According to Pew Research, in 2010, 30% of residents of Daviess County identified with the “nones” – those who claim no religious affiliation whatsoever. The population of Daviess County is just over 99,000. 30% of that is 29,700. 22% of Kentuckians fall into this category.
Let that sink in for a minute. 30% of our neighbors, family, co-workers, and acquaintances have no relationship with a church. They are not hearing the gospel preached each week, they are not a part of a church body when they face a crisis, they are not involved in the work of the Lord. Who knows how many of this 30% are lost and bound for hell unless someone share the gospel with them?
We can’t deny the mission field! Some of us may be called to go on short or long-term mission trips to other states or other countries, but we are ALL called to be on mission where we are, and the mission field is all around us in Owensboro!
Matthew 28:16-20 The Great Commission
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The Great Commission applies to us in 2016 in Owensboro, Kentucky, just as much as it did to the disciples who walked with Jesus. We are commanded to take the gospel to all nations, and that includes Owensboro. God commands us to share with the lost, wherever we are.
We can be bold because He has given us the authority to do so! Look at verse 18 – Jesus says He has all authority on heaven and earth – therefore! The “therefore” reminds us to look at what comes before, and what comes before is the key to our letting our light shine boldly – we have the authority of Christ when we share the gospel. We have the authority of the Maker and the Finisher of our faith. “Therefore” we can share with boldness!
Matthew 5:16 says, In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Jesus isn’t telling us to shine our light to toot our own horns – a temptation any of us can face in ministry. He’s telling us that we have the light the world needs, and we need to shine that light out boldly, so we can draw others to God.
Daviess County, Kentucky needs the light of Christ. We live in a great city. This is a great place for a child to grow up. We are very community-minded here. But community-mindedness doesn’t take the place of living a bold witness for the Lord before our friends and family. In fact, I would wager that a good part of the “nones” we talked about are involved in our community. They may even be involved with organizations that do a lot of good for our city. But if they do not know Jesus, then it doesn’t matter how much good work they do. They are still lost. My heart is burdened for this group of people. They need to see the light of Christ in us.
What needs do you see around you? How can we look up and around and find the people God has placed in our paths and minister to them? Who do you need to share the gospel with?