Simply on Mission: Michigan Church Sharpens Kingdom Focus
By Carl Stagner
For many Church of God congregations across the United States and Canada, the last couple of years of change in society have supplied the ideal opportunity for change in the church. Certainly, we’re not talking about modifying the message of the gospel; after all, Jesus Christ is the same today, yesterday, and forever. But paring back to the basics amid pandemic restrictions afforded churches the chance to carefully consider those elements of ministry which matter the most—and perhaps pinpoint those which may inadvertently distract from the mission. At Orchard View Church of God in Grand Rapids, Michigan, efforts are underway to sharpen a kingdom focus and simply be the church.
Pastor Mike Simmons explains the goal: “Our church has been going through a paradigm shift in our thinking about and practices of ministry. We want to spend less time focusing on how we meet our own needs as a church and spend that time and energy on taking the gospel to where people who need it are at. We have been studying a concept called ‘Simple Church’ to help us identify what we need to be truly doing as a church.”
Thanks largely to the generosity of the Babb family, Orchard View has been blessed with abundant means to support organizations in the community that are doing great work. In recent months, the church has donated to a ministry that provides hydrated crops to countries where hunger is a critical concern; supplied their local elementary school across the street; given aid to local food ministries; and surprised eighty senior citizens with gift cards at Christmastime. In addition to international mission opportunities and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, the church has provided many individuals with assistance to pay bills, diapers for single moms, and help for the homeless.
“Whereas it is easy to distribute funds where they are needed,” Pastor Mike explains, “we have had a strong discernment to match those funds with a spiritual opportunity to share our faith in Christ with others.”
As a means to that end, Orchard View embraces partnership instead of reinventing the wheel. They recognize the simple call to advance the kingdom of God cannot be accomplished with a silo mentality. They also recognize there’s no room for competition among local churches where the cause of Christ is concerned. One example of this, he notes, is the church’s partnership with an inner-city neighborhood ministry known as the Dream Center of Grand Rapids, as well as another church located only a mile from them.
“New Life Church has been involved with this ministry for some time now and just adopted a new neighborhood in Grand Rapids to take the hope of Christ to,” Pastor Mike explains. “They do grocery deliveries, women’s and men’s Bible studies, neighborhood block parties, children’s and youth programs, community meals, driver’s education for teenagers, etc.”
Orchard View also plans to plant a community garden this year, the responsibility of which will be shared by New Life Church—and the harvest of which will go to support neighborhood grocery deliveries. Additionally, the church continues to host a 200-member Christian homeschool network, which utilizes the facility for classes, as well theater performances open to the public.
“I feel that the people of Orchard View Church of God are beginning to see that we must make connections with people and do life with them,” Pastor Mike explains, “if we ever hope to become involved in their lives in such a way that the gospel can be effectively shared.”
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
Feature (top) collage: Back-to-school event at Orchard View in 2021; supply drive for local veterans home this year.