SALISBURY, Md. (BP) -- In the early days of his church plant, pastor Ryan Weaver and his team at Remedy Church scoured the newspapers looking for ways to serve the people of Salisbury, Md. It was a small ad asking for landscaping help that eventually caught their eye.
"We saw the landscaping ad and when we realized the need was on Booth Street we knew it was the right place for us," Weaver says.
Few others in the area might consider Booth Street to be the "right place" for them to serve. This pocket of the community is marked by crime and poverty that covers the local news on a weekly basis. Most of the families live in low-income housing and are struggling against the cycle of destitution that has permeated Booth Street for so long.
Rather than shying away, Weaver and his team began serving the people of Booth Street by taking 25 volunteers to the area for a day of service.
"We showed up that day and just served -- landscaping, weed-eating, cleaning up trash," Weaver recalls. "But I noticed members of our team slowly starting to talk to the people on Booth Street, getting to know them and figure out their specific needs. That was really the catalyst to starting our congregation's relationship with our friends on Booth Street."
Remedy Church's day of service on Booth Street opened the door for members of the congregation to start conversations and eventually share the Gospel with those they served.
"Serving them enabled us to intersect in their stories and start having the kind of conversations that build trust and relationships. Service was the only way we were going to be able to share the Gospel with our friends on Booth Street," Weaver says.
That kind of service is at the heart of the North American Mission Board's God's Plan for Sharing (GPS) focus for 2014-2015. Congregations are encouraged to host a day or season of service in their communities. These projects often provide opportunities for volunteers to share the Gospel with neighbors.
"Working with our convention partners, we're designating 2014-2015 as a time to serve across North America," Al Gilbert, NAMB's vice president of evangelism, explains. "We hope to see churches taking action and meeting needs by hosting days or even entire seasons of service for their neglected neighbors."
A day of service event is designed for churches to spend a specific day strategically working to meet the needs of their community. Activities could include collecting and delivering food to a local food pantry, assisting with activities at a local school or hosting a meal for local law enforcement and firefighters. A season of service is similar in design, but might last anywhere from four to six weeks. These focused times of service have the potential to go a long way in impacting the community for Christ, Gilbert says.
"By emphasizing service over the next two years, we hope to harness the desire to serve that we believe God has put in the heart of His church," Gilbert says. "We're giving our churches the resources and encouragement they need to get out there and serve people in practical ways, and in doing so, share the love of Christ. The impact for the Kingdom could be tremendous!"
This two-year emphasis on service falls under a part of the overarching GPS strategy (God's Plan for Sharing), a 10-year evangelism emphasis designed to equip Southern Baptists across North America to share Christ.
"GPS was designed to emphasize the different aspects of local church evangelism. Every believer sharing, every person hearing -- that should be at the heart of every pastor," Gilbert says. "Serving others provides a great opportunity for churches to step out and begin the work of sharing Christ. It provides a chance to meet new people, serve them in practical ways and, in doing so, have the opportunity to share Christ."
Churches, associations or state conventions interested in more information or resources to assist in planning a day or season of service can visit http://www.namb.net/gps.
Sara Shelton writes for the North American Mission Board. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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