Shop Locally for a Church?

I recently purchased a couple of bags of driveway salt from a local hardware store that is going out of business. The store had a long history in the neighborhood. I had frequented the shop often since moving into the community. I was a regular and not surprised they were going out of business. Like most people, I knew most of what I was buying was cheaper at the ‘big box’ hardware store. The selection was better at the ‘big box’. Even the customer service was more efficient at the ‘big box’. However, I felt better when I supported the small business. I also liked having a connection to the clerk’s life story and having a good discussion with neighbors in the store aisles.

Shopping local has a lot of benefits to the community in addition to the economic and environmental positives. Local businesses:

  • are more interested in your individual situation

  • give more to local charities

  • add character to the community

  • invest more into unique community projects

When I came home, I thought about walking over to the neighbor to tell him about the 50% off going out of business sale. But I knew his reaction would be a shrugging of his shoulders and a rhetorical statement like, “what are you gonna do? The ‘big box’ store idea will always overrun the small store.”

I wondered for a few days if the ‘big box’ theory had credibility. It did offer an explanation to the other shuttered business in the neighborhood and even the decline in the local church. In my community most of the neighborhood churches are experiencing a decline in attendance except the latest and greatest ‘big box’. They have a new auditorium, a fog machine, laser lights, an incredible band, huge kids playland, multiple pastors and excellent programs to teach everyone their anthem to take the neighborhood for Jesus (and covertly get them to come to Sunday service). After all, bigger is better and coming to church on Sunday is the benchmark for being a good Christian, right? Isn’t this a biblical truth? “Not necessarily” would be my answer.

Having been a ministry leader for a few years, I’m grateful for the latest and greatest. They provide a great service to the Kingdom of God. They attract people and provide an excellence many small organizations can’t. However, as incarnational missionary (read “living to be a bridge to the neighborhood for Jesus”), I believe the benefits of shopping local also apply in the spreading of the Good News of Jesus.

“Going local does not mean walling off the outside world. It means nurturing locally owned businesses which use local resources sustainably, employ local workers at decent wages and serve primarily local consumers. It means becoming more self-sufficient and less dependant on imports. Control moves from the boardrooms of distant corporations and back into the community where it belongs.”  – Michael H. Shuman, author of the book Going Local.

The local church is more sustainable because they are efficient utilizing resources for the facilitating of ministry. Local churches:

  • are more aware of the individuals within the community and the public/private services being offered.

  • are often debt free and their buildings have been environmentally minimalized due to age

  • Operate with lower overhead costs due to faithful stewardship.

  • add character to the community through unique designs which border on landmark status

  • generate positive impact through established local ministries woven into the fabric of the community life.

  • are generally more generous to residents because they are helping neighbors they know.

  • are positive forces for other community interests as well as issues affecting the quality of life.

The local expression I belong to is called, The Center. We understand our mission to be the ‘sent ones’ appointed to share the Good News of Jesus in our neighborhood and community.  We accomplish our mission by training domestic missionaries to establish multiple missional expressions that operate in concert to reach those in need of redemption, transformation and restoration. We assist people in becoming connected to God as well as each other by learning from one another, supporting one another, growing relationally and most importantly, spiritually.

If your interested in changing the world, start locally. Come on over for a cup of coffee anytime.