Some people like to talk – others act. I have often been guilty of talking about some things that are important, but not following through to bring them to reality.
This happens to us in the church. We talk a lot about feeding the poor, helping the needy, reaching out to those who have made big mistakes in life, and going to groups of people the church is not reaching. A lot of times it is something we talk about, but only a small number of churches do it. Bringing your Bible to church is important – taking it to people who don’t read it is more important!
I had an experience on the first Sunday of August 2013 where I saw a church that is not just talking, but doing. Darren McClellan is the pastor at Perdido Bay United Methodist Church. About three years ago he was preaching and made a statement about going to reach people that no one else was reaching. His church is located just down the road from the Flora-Bama, one of the ten most famous bars in the world! He cast a vision to his people of doing something of significant ministry at this famous bar.
Sitting in the congregation was a new resident who was a first-time visitor. The man was challenged by that concept. After the worship service he asked Darren, “Are you just talking about this or do you actually plan to do something about it?” Darren said, “We plan to do something about it.”
That man was John Mason Smith. John and his wife Donna had just reached a stage in their lives where she had retired and he worked for a company that would allow him to have his office anywhere. They were looking to invest their lives in something meaningful. They jumped on board.
Darren and fellow minister friend Jeremy Mount had been dreaming together about a ministry that went “outside the box.” Jeremy became a teaching Pastor of Perdido Bay United Methodist Church. He became the point person for starting the ministry at the Flora-Bama.
In two years God has blessed abundantly! Much to their surprise, the owner of the Flora-Bama liked the idea and offered his support. The more they began to plan and work, the more the owner, John McInnis, got involved. I’ll share more of his amazing story later.
I preached at the Flora-Bama worship service on August 4, 2013. The temperature was 93˚ outside the tent, and no telling how hot inside. 700 people were present! There was standing room only. It was hot, but the excitement and experience of worship were electric.
I met people who had come to the bar and “accidentally (God’s plan)” walked into the worship and their lives were transformed. One man was homeless and destitute, and the Flora-Bama congregation loved him, helped him financially, and now he is a restored, redeemed individual. I met another man who had been serving time as a drug smuggler. When he got out of prison, some people from the Perdido Bay UMC invited him to be a part of their fellowship. He couldn’t believe it. He now is actively involved in prison ministry in that area and a part of the ministry at the Flora-Bama. The number of stories could go on and on and on.
John McInnis talked about how his 300 employees are ministered to. Most of them have never experienced love from a church. The Pastor, Jeremy Mount, knows every employee by name. Jeremy is the message of the Bible everyday at a place you don’t think of as the Bible belt. Through the ministry there, many employees have become Christians. They have been helped in meaningful ministry ways.
It is easy to talk about making a difference – I preached in a worship service that is doing it! I hope what is happening at the Flora-Bama can be an inspiration and encouragement to many other churches who are willing to do creative things to reach people that the church is not reaching.
Where are you taking the Bible?