Missional Church Learning Experience

MCLE leads Iowa church to ‘The Cause’

By The Rev. Joshua Meyer

First Baptist Church
Participants in "The Cause" at First Baptist Church, Clinton, Iowa

First Baptist Church, Clinton, Iowa, is implementing a project called “The Cause,” birthed by participation in the Missional Church Learning Experience (MCLE) offered by American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS). The learning experience challenged us to look at the way we think about how to “do” church, reach out to the community, and collaborate with others to do God’s work in our community and beyond. At the heart of The Cause is the building of an authentic faith community that will breathe energy into individuals’ lives, families and faith.

At the beginning of the MCLE process, we asked numerous people in every segment of our community what they’d most like to change in the community. Most responded that they want to accomplish something larger than what they could do on their own. In other words, they want to become part of something authentic—something that could bring real change to the community. The thought was daunting.

Revealing a plan to reach out to the needy and downtrodden in our communities, Matthew 25 focuses on caring for the “least of these” by feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, inviting the stranger, sharing clothing, caring for the sick and visiting the imprisoned. Verse 40 says, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (NRSV).

The Cause has given us an opportunity to train young and old alike to strive to be authentic. They are hungering for more support, accountability and training. Excitement and expectation are emerging as they are called to service, rather than church service attendance. A desire to learn more about how Jesus taught to serve others is growing, and people are recognizing community needs, such as poverty, addiction, abuse, neglect and brokenness. Fervor for prayer is coming forth as people are praying for these experiences to be more than outreach, but an opportunity to do ministry with people instead of for people. Ultimately, people are excited to put their faith into action and be the hands and feet of Jesus in the community.

Numerous projects have resulted from the MCLE experience. People shoveled snow after a 16-inch snowstorm. One group is planning to deliver meals to those in need, while another will deliver clothing. Others are joining with the local Big Brothers Big Sisters organization to create a Ride-to-Church program. Still others are working with local nursing homes to provide activities and companionship for residents. As a gift to the community, the church coordinated a celebration—including a speaker, improvisational group and a band—at a local high school.

Many people are faithfully answering the call to be part of something that is bigger than they are as well as larger than their previous thoughts about church. A change is taking root as they recognize that they can be part of The Cause of Jesus Christ.

The MCLE program urges churches to look beyond their own walls to aid their communities. For more information about MCLE, contact the Rev. Glynis LaBarre, ABHMS transformation strategist, at glynis.labarre@abhms.org or 800-222-3872, x2412.

The Rev. Joshua Meyer is pastor of discipleship at First Baptist Church, Clinton, Iowa.

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