Value: Service

There is a groundswell in American Christianity where people no longer want to be known for what we are against, but what we are for.  Out of this desire, churches are engaging more in socially responsible behavior, interdenominational partnerships, and beginning new churches rather than investing effort in revitalizing dying ones.  The “service project” has become one of the best ways to engage people.  In a recent blog post, Tony Morgan says, “What would happen if we put less attention on organizing relationships and more attention on giving people something to organize around? For example, what if we focused on serving opportunities? Would people naturally gather around those initiatives to serve others?”  Our church participates in an initiative called Live Kind which is just that; a way for people to rally around a cause and in the process be brought closer together. Recently, several area churches partnered on a park beautification project for two local parks and around 75 people participated. That’s a big deal in our community!

As Al Mohler mentioned in a recent twitter post, there is a line between “social action for the Gospel” and the “Social Gospel”.  I believe a great place to understand this scripturally is 2 Corinthians 9:12-13. Proper social action for the follower of Jesus is obedience that accompanies a confession.  Service is obedience only when it leads to the Gospel. Not that every time you hold a door open for someone you need to say “in Jesus Name”, but our lives should  be patterned after service  that leads to the Gospel.  Without the Gospel, service is merely a temporary illusion of relief from life outside of Jesus.  On the other side, merely confessing Jesus, without service is seen in our day as judgemental and confrontational. Without service, we are delivering mere words, we are attempting to describe faith without works, which James says is impossible. There is a balance and a tension between the two. We must serve others and we must confess Christ to others. The two are to be held together.


1 Response to “Value: Service”

  1. May 20, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I believe service is the missing link for most churches and something that could help them engage their culture, rally people who have a concern for a common cause (including “unchurched” people who are interested in that cause, be it related to AIDS, homelessness, affordable housing, etc.). But too often churches have their people so tied to programs at the church that service becomes something they may give attention to once a year (like Mother’s Day). (Maybe because of the WII-FM mindset–What’s In It For Me?–that’s so prevalent among American Christians?) And then too many churches on that “Servant Day” plan for just one type of service (be it raking leaves, repairing homes, etc.) and wonder why so few people were willing to serve. Possibly because not everyone has a heart for that area (or even thinks it’s a legitimate need)! Or possibly because it was just another program added into the mix, and the church didn’t cancel all of the ongoing programs for that week so it would have meant overload for many individuals/families during the week of the servant “project.”

    Leaders of new churches especially need to set the stage for this value: service. They need to find ongoing projects around which to rally people (whether 2 or 20), partnering with other agencies in the community so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel (or have two dozen people involved to pull off the project), or partnering with other local churches when there are no existing agencies to give leadership. Pastors/church planters also need to cast vision to people in their churches that we’re not going to do “business as usual”–planning and offering all types of church programs.

    Leaders are the key to changing the way things are done.

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