It's a common challenge for small churches - finding a way to make a big impact on the community with limited funds or resources. For Tal Sullivan, lead pastor at Church of the King in Berkley, Michigan, the answer lied within the message of Scott Wilson's book, Act Normal.
Inspired by the book of Acts, Act Normal features 31 daily readings that will open the reader's eyes to a new normal when it comes to compassion. Influences Resources Author Scott Wilson, who is lead pastor at The Oaks Fellowship (AG) in Red Oaks, Texas, introduces readers to what it means to live for God and be empowered by the Holy Spirit.
It was December 2011, and Sullivan felt that starting a sermon series on Act Normal at the beginning of the year was the direction he needed to go in order to grow and stretch his congregation. Materials from Act Normal were used, as well as Sullivan's own additional content, to create a 12-week sermon series for the church.
Sullivan decided on a plan to implement the series in January 2012 in services and small groups, and immediately an opportunity presented itself for the Church of the King congregation to step out and assist their community through a homeless outreach. The outreach happened to be taking place in March 2012, the week after the series would come to a close.
"The same week we started Act Normal, we received a call from a homeless shelter that needed help housing homeless in various churches in our area," Sullivan says. "It happened to work out that the time we were scheduled to finish up the series, was the time that they needed space in our church. Since Act Normal deals with compassion, it was a no brainer saying yes to participate."
Sullivan says that when he
first announced that their small church would be housing the homeless, there
were doubts and questions about handling the commitment. "But by the end
of the compassion week, people were so energized and asked when we could do
this again," he says.
The impact of the series was powerful at Church of the King. For Sullivan personally, it proved beneficial for him to walk through the basics of Acts again in his own personal study. "The way Scott had the book all set up, it hit on the foundational issues of Christianity," Sullivan says.
For the church, it allowed the members to work together and get involved in opportunities that weren't on the radar before, such as homeless outreaches. "It was a really great, stretching experience for the congregation. The unexpected reaction from the series and compassion week combined was the change and response of the people."
Sullivan offers one tip for pastors wanting to start this series at their church -get ready to serve. "You must be willing to step out and look for what God is going to ask you to do," he says. "You can't cover this material without him asking you to get real practical."
For more information about Act Normal and other Influence Resources titles, click here.