Ministry shines through Christian hospitality

Flo Johnston Faith in Focus

April 24, 2014

Since when did an oil change become a Christian ministry?

An unusual announcement arrived in my email this week.

Considering the fact that I’ve been begging for such responses for the past six months, you might think I would be overjoyed.

I was. Also impressed.

I believe that in writing about church projects, it is always important to consider the “Why.” Why is the church carrying on a particular project and just exactly what does the church expect to accomplish by conducting this project? These answers can push Christians to define more precisely the mission of the church.

Scotland County has a big constituency of Christian congregations. In the city, two, three, four on the same street are not uncommon and a drive through the countryside shows a landscape dotted with churches, some doing business around here for two centuries or more.

Into this setting, the men’s group of about 20 at Old Laurel Hill Presbyterian announced a new outreach ministry this week: “Oil Changes for Single Mothers.”

Here’s the way it works. Applications have been placed at Church Community Services starting last Monday and the application process will continue until May 2. From the pool of applications, the church men will select the cars they think they can service and contact the owners with a time for their appointment. The actual oil changes will be done on May 31, on the grounds at the church.

“We want to be known in the community for something besides our in-gatherings,” said Chris Fore, a member of the group. “It’s easy for a small church in the country to become isolated. We help with Church Community Services to keep our hands in the community. We don’t want our church to become a museum.

“Churches are changing,” he said. “We want to stay loyal to our past but strive for the future, find a balance between the past and modern ways of doing things. It’s easy to say, but hard to figure out.”

Deck Guess, the pastor, agreed with this assessment, but threw in some background on the rationale behind the project.

“When money is tight, it usually, and rightly, goes to provide food, clothes and shelter for children,” he said. “Automobile maintenance seems less urgent and may get postponed. But if deferred too long, bad things happen to the engine, which means the car may no longer run. And Mom can’t get to work, no money, no food. This can set off a cascade of difficulties that are terribly hard to stop.”

There are no strings attached to this outreach ministry; however, the men are aware that some people may need spiritual resources as well.

At this point, the project becomes more of a total church outreach, involving women in the congregation. While customers are getting their cars tended to, church members will be extending the hand of fellowship and hospitality.

“We will provide continental breakfast-style refreshments for the moms and the kids,” the pastor said. “Someone will be in our nursery to be with the children while they play or watch a ‘Veggie Tale.’ Some folks will be available to visit with the moms, too, just to get to know them as our neighbors.

“If they are interested, we will tell them a little about our church and, if they are not part of a faith community, give them an invitation to join us for worship to get to know us better. Our greatest hope is that they will see God in this and be moved to connect or reconnect with God on a deeper level, either with our fellowship or somewhere else they think God may be calling them.

“We want to focus a little less on ourselves and a lot more on what is going on outside our walls in order to make a difference in God’s kingdom.”

The Old Laurel Hill church is located north of Laurinburg off US 501 on McFarland Road.

Cookies and milk more than tradition

It’s no deep, dark secret that the deacons at Laurinburg Presbyterian serve cookies and milk to students at Saint Andrews University who are in the middle of final exams, but a lot of folks probably don’t know about it.

Church members know, because they bake the cookies and pick up the tab for this beautiful act of hospitality. It’s a “Tradition” at the church, said Lu Fowler, church secretary.

Remember what Jesus said in that New Testament story about a cup of cool water served in his name?

Is that the “Why” in this project, the rationale behind such an event?

Are these church cookies served in Jesus’ name sweeter and more satisfying than regular Oreos from Harris Teeter?

Probably so, because they come with smiles, good wishes and support from a mystical band of Christians who have been gathering on West Church Street for some 155 years. That’s a lot of years, a lot of Christians and a lot of Good Wishes flying around Laurinburg and about the campus at St. Andrews University.

I have no hesitation in labeling this cookie thing as an act of Christian Hospitality, maybe even the result of a little nudge by the capricious Holy Spirit who’s been known to put notions into the heads of Christians and then wait patiently for them to respond. Slightly different motivation from “doing something because you ought to.”

Eat up, university scholars, this may be a sugar fix from the Holy Spirit!

Contact Flo Johnston at or 910-361-4135.