In Sunday school I learned a simple rhyme complete with hand gestures that goes something like this…
“This is the church. This is the steeple. Open the doors and see all the people!”
After serving with New Hope (NH) for over 20 years, we’ve never had a steeple and we’ve always worked tirelessly to take the doors OFF the church. A common saying in NH circles is “Don’t evaluate a church by how many people attend; evaluate the church by how many people are outside of the church – yet to be reached in our communities.” It’s that truth that keeps our hand to the plow in loving and serving our neighbors, whether across the street, across the country, or even around the world.
This is the heart of the Extension ministry.
The Extension team is passionate about outreach and in-reach. While some churches may have a “missions department,” New Hope has the extension ministry.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for GOOD WORKS, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
One of our firm beliefs is that GOOD WORKS leads to GOOD WILL and good will is the best soil to plant seeds of the Gospel. As powerful as a weekend worship experience is, there are SO many people for SO many reasons who are just not comfortable visiting a church.
“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” Romans 10: 14-15
Through simple acts of kindness and caring, we can begin to chip away at the walls that have been built around people’s hearts toward Jesus and the church and sometimes these walls are torn down completely. Early church fathers believed in the creed “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” We might say, “Live the Gospel, and the words become real!”
Back in 2020, the McKenzie Willamette fire consumed everything in its path including over 400 homes. With little warning, homes were burned to the ground leaving nothing but ash and devastation in its wake. With a heart of compassion, the New Hope extension team mobilized to send a large team up the Mckenzie River to sift through homesites. Armed with wheelbarrows, self-made sifters, hazmat suits, and breathing apparatus, our teams worked tirelessly to find memories, important documents, and even a bar of gold. And while not everything held monetary value, important keepsakes like a grandmother’s locket or wedding rings were absolutely priceless to their owners. Overwhelmed as to why anyone would give of their time to help total strangers, some of the owners even wanted to compensate the teams working on their homesites. They wondered why anybody from the city would care, and we told them why. Upon the completion of each homesite, people didn’t have to drive to a parking lot to find the church, the church came to them.
Through simple acts of service involving volunteer teams and interns and staff, New Hope is involved in Back-to-School Events with One Hope, working with local schools on landscaping and special projects. This summer, we are serving throughout our community in various ways to better our community.
Another favorite event for the Extension team is our Shoe Box ministry at Christmas. In just two years we’ve gone from 75 boxes to collecting over 500 boxes last year and hope to do even more in the future. In partnership with Samaritan’s Purse, these shoeboxes travel around the world to bring hope and the gospel to children everywhere.
Equally important as OUTreach, is our INreach events. Through concerts, musicals, and special events like Cowboy Church and Harvest Fest, we dream, plan, strategize, rehearse, and basically do everything in our control to invite the community not just to a place, but an experience. Whether it’s a Reptile Show, Bounce City, or a Trunk O’ Treat, “the church” is not a building but truly a community. At NH, we believe in Redeeming the arts to reach hearts. The Extension ministry examples this in creative ways: a theatrical jungle set from Tarzan the Musical, a Wild West review, or even a thrilling fire-knife presentation as part of our Island Style Concerts this summer. Through these INreach events, our church is a place to gather, celebrate, inspire, and even sometimes to entertain. People may think they’re coming for an event, but ultimately, they’re really coming near to the heart of God. It takes a BIG step of faith to just enter a church building and as people take that step, they get another step closer to wanting to venture out to a church service. I’ve personally watched as families came to a musical on a Friday night, and wanted to see if the love, community, and connection were real so they took the step of faith needed to try a normal service. Their lives are now forever changed.
While we’ve all heard…. “This is the church. This is the steeple. Open the doors and see all the people.”
New Hope Extension ministry might add, “Turn them all over, up on their feet and take the Gospel out into the street!” – Hand gestures included!
If you’re passionate about Extension ministry, let’s dream together! Please contact me at SteveKenny@newhope.org.
Executive Pastor & Extension Director
New Hope Church & College