If you do not have love…

With a population of 3,400, you wouldn’t expect Allendale, South Carolina to bring much to the table when it comes to welcoming the stranger. This area has been noted numerous times as the poorest county in the state. They do not like that statement one bit. “It focuses on what is negative, rather than all that is positive. And there is a lot that is positive,” says Carol Holladay of First Baptist Church. I would agree. The community, First Baptist in particular, is a showcase for asset based reform.  It is not just the neighborhood committees that work in tandem with the church and other organizations; it is not just Abba’s Kitchen which cooperates with a diverse group of churches to provide meals to students at the college, many of them from other countries; it is not just the motorcycle ministry riding with and ministering to motorcycle gangs; it is not just the We Care ministry that fixes houses, provides library books, involves Internationals in providing soccer clinics, etc; it is not even the help they are giving Indian families in obtaining green cards. It is that this small congregation of a 100 or so reflects their love and appreciation for their community. How? By their diversity! I preached there last Sunday and as I looked out over the congregation, no one group predominated. There were multiple races, nationalities, and ethnicities. No one color or background seemed to be the majority. It was the most diverse Baptist congregation I have been a part of since I lived overseas. Most amazing was the fun all seemed to have as they interacted. No separating out into clicks. No chips on shoulders as they poked fun at one another. No frowns or long faces. Rather, it was young Indian men calling Caucasian women in the congregation, “Mom.” It was youth of all races playing around. It was an Indian man encouraging the congregation to recite the Lord’s prayer in English, while he read in another language. It was an Indian family visiting from Georgia giving to the missions offering because they too witnessed the love of this congregation. It was easy to see that the asset they based reform on was sincere loving relationships. As Holladay said, “God is saying ‘Look what I can do! I am taking the least affluent county {remember they don’t like saying the poorest!} and the smallest church and I am transforming people and places.’”

The very next day, I received an email that told of a young Persian woman who had recently accepted Christ. She was going to leave her Farsi congregation and go to the larger American congregation because she wanted more friends. A couple of weeks later she was back reporting that she could not find anyone who wanted to be her friend. This is in a church that boasts over 10,000 in attendance on the weekend. You can have all the programs, all the money, all the materials, all the bands and music, and if you do not have love…you have nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) And I might add that love is by far the most important asset!

Nell Green

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Nell Green currently serves as Field Personnel with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Along with her husband, Butch, she has experience ministering primarily among Muslim peoples in Africa and Europe. For the past few years the Greens have been helping churches in North America develop multidisciplinary ministries to meet the needs of Internationals, share the gospel of Christ and become effective global partners.

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