A church in North Little Rock, Ark., became a major financial blessing to its community on Sunday when it gave a total of $100,000 to area organizations as a way of celebrating its 100th anniversary.
First Assembly of God Church of North Little Rock began planning its 100th anniversary celebration six years ago, when its leaders decided they would try to plant 100 churches by the time the centennial anniversary came about. But when the church realized it had already planted 1,167 churches in 64 nations, and the centennial was fast approaching, they had to come up with a new way to celebrate.
They initially decided to just collect an offering that would go toward the planting of 100 new churches in Vietnam, but the First Assembly's leaders felt they also needed to do something to show their love for the local community as well.
"I think the key to long-term viability is an outward focus," said Rod Loy, senior pastor of First Assembly, in an interview with The Christian Post on Monday. "For us it was at a key juncture ... at an age where the tendency is to turn inward and to care about survival and to care about your own needs, we wanted to do something that in a very intentional way keeps us looking outward."
The church created grant applications and had advertisements published in the local newspaper. The ads said the church was looking to give $10,000 a piece to 10 organizations that are making a difference in the area. The application was filled out and returned by 462 organizations, and Loy says it was "crazy hard" to decide who would get the money.
On Sunday, the church presented representatives from each of the selected organizations with the money during worship services as part of their centennial celebration. Through these organizations, the money will go toward helping foster children, the poor, the homeless, those struggling with medical conditions, human trafficking victims, local school programs and more.
Sylvan Hills High School is just one of the organizations that received $10,000 from the church. Phyllis Ray, the literacy instructional facilitator for the school, was presented with the check at one of the church's multiple services yesterday.
Ray told CP that the school will use the money to purchase Apple iPads for students to use in the classroom, and the school district has matched the donation by allowing $25,000 to go toward the installation of a new wireless system in the school. Both purchases are part of a five-year plan to make technology more available to the students.
Ray says she is "very excited" about the upgrades in technology, and the students are too.
"I've spoken to some of the kids and they are like, 'Oh boy, this is going to be good,'" she said.
In addition to the money given to the community, the church also raised about $165,000 in offering on Sunday that will be used to start planting churches in Vietnam. Loy hopes other churches will follow First Assembly's example by making others the focus of their ministry.
"People come up with lots of plans and strategies and ideas to be relevant. Loving people has always been relevant. You can dress wrong, you can do old-school music, but if you love people with an outward focus you'll make a difference and God will bless you and you'll continue to grow. I think sometimes we make church too hard," he said.
Sunday also marked the 20th anniversary of Loy's service as a pastor of First Assembly, and it has been nearly 11 years since he took over as senior pastor. He says one thing that has changed since he began serving as a leader is the church, which has always been supportive of missionary work, is that he now sees the local community as a mission field as well.