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Etowah Association church finds new energy to help others with community-perspectivecomment (0)

November 10, 2005

By Sue Sprenkle

Members of Lakeview Baptist Church, Southside, in Etowah Baptist Association see things a bit differently than they used to. They see a community outside their church walls — a community they want to impact.
The small church participated in Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Community, a churchwide spiritual growth campaign with weekly lessons, and the aftereffects are something Pastor Darin Garrison said he never imagined. 
The church family is busy building a community walking path and recently spearheaded a communitywide disaster relief effort for hurricane victims along the Gulf Coast. 
“Forty Days of Community has given us a different perspective on life,” Garrison said. “We are learning to look through God’s eyes and not our own. We are looking for ways to do this within our own local community — and then it just flows over to the way we look at the rest of the world.”
He said the disaster relief project is the perfect example of how Lakeview Baptist’s members discovered one of the basic concepts of the campaign, “We are better together.” 
The idea started with someone at church mentioning a desire to help. Garrison sent an e-mail to the church family asking for donations. 
Almost overnight, word got out that Lakeview was taking action. Donations and supplies rolled in from places church members never imagined — Gadsden; Knoxville, Tenn.; and even Brooklyn, N.Y. Other Baptist churches within the Etowah Association, as well as churches from other denominations, also joined the efforts. 
Josh Harp of Builder Bargains in Gadsden said the business heard what the church was doing and  jumped in to help. It donated a trailer, already filled with supplies, for the church to distribute in south Alabama.
“We started looking around the community to see who was doing something and what needed to be done,” Harp said. “Lakeview Baptist Church already had a plan so we joined in. It was our way of doing something for our community instead of sitting back and watching.”
Garrison said one of the purposes of 40 Days of Community is to deepen an understanding of how God uses other people — specifically those in the church family — for good and growth. The study shows how God uses His people to bless others. It is designed to encourage people to be “doers of the Word, not hearers only” (James 1:22, KJV) Garrison said watching his community pull together to help another community in need was a humbling experience. 
“I’ve seen our congregation make a gradual shift,” he said. “People who were not as active now have the desire to reach out and help others.” 
“This emphasis on community helps them know how to reach out,” Garrison said, noting that one teenager gave up attending her first Auburn football game to help deliver the supplies.
Lakeview members now ask “What on earth are we here for?” and realize there’s a tremendous task to share the gospel with others. 
The study emphasizes that when it comes to ministry and missions, more can be accomplished when it is done together, instead of individually.
“We’ve seen firsthand that when we work for one purpose, we can’t help but change the world,” Garrison said. “We partnered with others in the community and other churches with amazing results. If we can do this on a regular basis, God can do mighty things. This isn’t about service, ministry and missions — this is about God.”

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