3513 Hard Scrabble Road
Columbia, SC 29223
9:15 am - 10:30 am
11:00 am - 12:15 am
You’re making church way too difficult.
I can sum up the entire Bible for you in four words: Love God. Love others. This was Jesus response, essentially, when asked by a teacher of the law about the greatest commandment (see Matthew 22:37-40). Everything depends on these commands.
Two questions naturally follow. How do I love God? How do I love my neighbor? These deep questions descend to a deeper level still when we ask why Jesus included the phrases “… with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind ” and “… as yourself.”
“GECKO” is the acronym we use to describe our philosophy of ministry. It stands for connecting to God, Each other, and our Community, with an emphasis on Kindness Outreach. The Gecko church is a church that lives out the Great Commandment and Great Commission while leaning on a particular philosophy of implementation. Connecting to God, each other, and our community has both an individual and corporate fulfillment.
We are called to connect with God individually, that is, make sure that we are truly a part of God’s family and are pursuing Him even when no one else is looking. There is also a corporate fulfillment in that we have been called to worship God together. We do this as we gather for Sunday morning, and other, worship experiences.
When we read Acts 2:42-47, we see that we are called to connect to each other individually, in the sense that we need to build relationships with one another (something we are not naturally inclined to do). We are also to encourage developing meaningful relationship within the corporate body of church. We do this through participation in our community group ministry.
Finally, we connect with our community individually when we take personal responsibility for our role in participating in the Great Commission. We also take ownership for our corporate responsibilities as a local congregation. In Acts 1:8 we read, “… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The disciples understood Christ was articulating responsibility for our immediate cities, our surrounding regions and the whole of the world. As a church, we do this through participating in local, regional and global outreach opportunities.
This sums up the G.E.C. but what of the K.O.? Kindness Outreach is the idea of demonstrating the love of Christ in a practical way. I first encountered this idea when reading Steve Sjogren’s book, “Conspiracy of Kindness.” I have found it to be an extremely effective tool for opening doors that others initially want to keep closed. Let me give you one example so you get the idea. Sjogren puts forth the idea of offering free car washes, truly free with no money accepted (in case you needed further clarification on the word “free”). But, you and I both know that free car washes are never free. Every church group, civic club, or school group has a tip jar. The idea is we’ll wash your car for free (wink, wink) if you will dump the contents of your wallet into our bucket. Churches, for better or worse, are typically seen as money-hungry. (Thank you health and wealth preachers). For us to articulate something is free and then pass the offering plate confirms what the culture tends to believe about Christians anyway. We are viewed as duplicitous and hypocritical in the way we live our faith. At our church, we found this belief to be true by experience.
We held a free car wash. On a particular Saturday we gathered at a gas station and held up signs that said “free car wash.” We chose a gas station that was on the busiest corner of our community. We stood out there for two hours while traffic rushed by. We washed around a dozen cars. Almost every one of the people we served offered us money or asked how much they could give.
We were frustrated by the low turn-out. A group of us gathered after the car wash to discuss what we could have done differently. We agreed that most people expected a tip jar because that’s what all of the other groups in our community have modeled. Then, one of our guys said, “We ought to write on our signs, ‘car wash one dollar,' then at least they’d know what they’re getting into.” Then one of the guys in our group began to smile. He said, “What if we do make signs that say that, but when they get their cars washed, we give them a dollar and say, 'thanks for letting us show you the love of Christ in a practical way.'” We loved the idea.
We implemented our plan at the next car wash and ended up with four times the traffic! We’ve been doing these now for years and I’ve got stories that would make you laugh, such as the guy who literally pulled into our car wash, threw a wad of bills at us and squealed out of the parking lot. (I’m not exaggerating - he didn’t even get his truck washed). I’ve also got stories that would tug at your heart, like the woman who’d fallen on hard times and began to cry when a group of us gathered around to pray for her. That’s the basic idea of kindness outreach, with the ultimate goal of getting people to slow down long enough for us to talk to them.
At this point you may have a question like, “What do you really mean by connecting to God?” or “Being kind to people is nice, but is that really fulfilling the Great Commission?” Wow. Those are good questions. This is where you get to decide what you would like to do. (Don’t you feel empowered)? I recommend visiting Sandhills Community Church and jumping in with both feet.
Should you choose to visit our church and get involved, you’ll see these ideas boiled down to a practical level. If you’re like me, that’s what you want because you hate it when a pastor or church challenges your thinking but offers no practical ideas for implementation. (Of course, if you’re too much like me, you’re easily distracted and the mere words ‘coffee shop’ make you emotional. But, I digress. Oh look, a shiny object…)
Serving you in the name of Christ our Lord,
Dr. Jeff Philpott