Monday Memo: Silent Ministry

Terry Walton


Silent Ministry

I was thinking...

Bishop Joel McDavid once called the public appearance of a church’s property “The Silent Ministry of the Church.”  My dad made a point to tell me as I was appointed to my first church and would be living in a parsonage, “Always cut the grass and keep your yard groomed.  It is a witness to your congregation and to the community.”  He chose different words, but he was saying the same thing as Bishop McDavid… “The Silent Ministry of the Church.”

Church signs can be a blessing or a curse when it comes to The Silent Ministry of the Church.  It has always bothered me when a church sign promoted an event and then weeks after the event, the church was still promoting the now outdated event.  What does that say to the community in terms of priority of witness?  Perhaps it simply says the one in charge of updating the signage has been ill.  Or maybe it says something far more distressing, like…what we do is not that important to keep it updated!

I read a church sign in our community just this week that said, “Blended Worship – 9:30 AM Sunday.”  I think there is a subtle unhelpful innocence in this signage.  Do you see it?  Even to the expert church goer ‘Blended Worship’ language can communicate confusing images.  To the unchurched (yet to know of God’s love for them folks)…well…What in the world is ‘blended’ worship?  And maybe even to some, ‘what is worship?’  All to often our messaging makes assumptions about the recipients.  What are the hurts and needs of the community?  Perhaps that is what needs to be addressed on church signs.  We are far too ‘member centered’ and not enough ‘community centered’ in our messaging…confusing the community and thus near zero results.

These days it is more about websites than it is about church signs.  More first-time attenders of churches in 2020 do their church selecting via the web (and they have for quite some time).  And especially during these COVID days, websites and virtual messaging is critical to reaching the world with hope found only in God’s love for them and for all people.  What does it say to a community in terms of priority of witness if we are not updating our messaging and our methods?  Maybe it simply says we are in process of getting that done.  Or maybe it says something far more distressing, like…what we do is not that important to keep it updated!

“The Silent Ministry of the Church” is critically important.  When I ride by a church and see a well-kept playground for children…I see something.  When I ride by a church and see no playground or one in ill-repair…I see something else.  When I surf the web and see a website with outdated information and is difficult to navigate…I see something.  When I surf the web and see color and smiling faces and updated information…I see something else.  If I am hurting, lonely and feeling that God-given prevenient grace need to connect with the creator, which church do you think I am going to choose to explore?  We know the answer, don’t we?

The author of James wrote many years ago “Faith without works is dead!”  That applies to more than just individual behavior.  It very much applies to corporate behavior…congregational behavior too.

“The Silent Ministry of the Church”…thank you Bishop McDavid for words I have never forgotten.  “Always keep the grass cut and your yard groomed”…thanks Dad for words I have never forgotten.  Silently…what is the witness of our faith community?  How does our yard look?  Is what we do important enough to keep it updated?  We know the answer, don’t we?

Always Thinking,

The Rev. Dr. Terry E. Walton
Executive Assistant to the Bishop

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