The announcements at church this morning caught my attention when "service opportunities" were mentioned. I've been thinking a lot about how I want to be involved in serving at a homeless shelter or something of the sort.
But the service opportunities were all within the church - you know, extra help for the nursery, check out this new program or that new group.
What about the service opportunities outside the church? The "least of these"?
Those weren't mentioned.
Our pastor then proceeded to preach a message on service opportunities - nothing specific, just how we need to always be ready for God to shake us up a bit and to embrace the changes and opportunities this brings.
At the end of his message, the congregation was invited to donate to the benevolent fund - money which goes to help those in need in the congregation and out. I'm not sure if he meant this as a tie-in to his message or not.
I think that part of the church's responsibility should be to point the congregation toward real live service opportunities - OUTSIDE the church - maybe even as part of the announcements. Some people - like me, for instance - would just love to help out if I was just shown "here" "do this". Rather than having to search this out on my own. Maybe this is spiritual laziness, but I still think that the church is missing the boat in many cases with this issue. Focusing too much on the inner needs of the church (and I'm not denying these are real) and not much, or at all, on ministries outside the church. And not just, "so and so is involved in the such-and-such ministry - here are some pictures". But, "These people could really use some extra help organizing clothing, or serving meals, etc. Why don't you sign up?" The church needs to be the encourager here for the body of believers to get involved in a community that has become the "church community" and no farther than that.
And when believers experience the joy of service to others who are lost and who we are able to show Jesus to, I believe it provides the rejuvenation, refreshment, and unquenchable joy needed to fulfill the other responsibilities of the church, like teaching a Sunday School class or rocking babies. Like turbo power or something when you're playing a video game - you start radiating the turbo light and suddenly you can go faster, jump higher, resist all injury.
The pastor talked about how when you serve in the capacity that the Lord has designed you for, you will find yourself in a place of happiness and complete joy that you haven't fully experienced before.
Christian turbo power. The Holy Spirit Glow.
Yes, yes, yes! I agree with you about service outside the church as well. I am the same way, I would help if somebody just told me where to go and what to do. Judy Westrum was good about service and got Justin to help out awhile back. Will have to look into this a litte more...
Thanks for being honest with this, you've said a lot and I couldn't address it all now on dinner break...
If memory serves me correctly, the benevolent fund has almost always (and, possibly, always) been collected following the morning services on the last Sunday of each month.
I'm slightly confused over your use of the word "church" - simply because it's often vague in English (not because I doubt your biblical maturity, which is evident). Could you clarify what you mean in the fifth paragraph:
"I think...the church's responsibility should be to point the congregation toward real live service opportunities - OUTSIDE the church -.."
By "real live" do you mean opportunities to offer your gifts as service to God that are primarily/exclusively outside the building (i.e. geographically distant) OR primarily/exclusively to "unreached" people that lack any level of personal faith relationship with Jesus Christ - i.e. outside the Body?
You're asking some very relevant questions and I just want to make sure I'm really grasping the crux of what you're presenting so I don't make a reasoned response based on a flawed understanding of your premises or assumptions.
I've got plenty to say but not more time tonight, yet I think we'd have lots of common ground on this topic.
Thanks Lance. I did know about the benevolent fund - it was just a bit ironic coming on the tail end of his sermon.
When I said "the church's responsibility" I was referring to our church or any Bible-believing church. Later when I said "outside the church", I was loosely referring to people outside the body of believers you worship with each Sunday, but yes, also outside the Church, as in the more broad body of believers. Unreached people. I believe we as believers get a lot of practice at and are fairly adept at ministering to fellow Christians - and there are plenty of groups inside the church whose job it is to do this (such as the addiction ministry that is being started). However, we tend to stick to that and call it ministry in the fullest sense of the word. And I don't want to downplay that. It is very necessary. But it is not the end-all. If more Christians reached out to the un-churched, rough, dirty, poor...maybe we'd have less problems within the church - there's just less time to concentrate on self, which eliminates a lot of those sins that believers seem to so easily get caught up in and need ministry for.
When we are serving, our eyes are focused outward - and upward - not inward. So many of our "problems" we would find would just not be perceived as very important or would just completely disappear in the face of this service.
Hope I'm more clear here.
Yes, the specific examples help, although I always have more questions - that's just me :)
I think the ministry you mentioned is fantastic, and I happen to have an insider view. But I dare reckon it no more significant in God's eyes to serve within that "group" compared to those who cheerfully and quietly refill the Sanctuary supplies.
When I speak of "Unreached peoples" I am strictly referring to those families, clans, and nations - scattered in every geographic place - without any gospel witness.
In my opinion, the "broader body" of Christ, or the church universal, is only unreached or at risk of spiritual decline if and when the local church fails to minister to and through its regular members.
There are and always will be needs in any local body that may exceed the "resources" of that local body(I've got examples of this that I could share in person if you wish). Then the universal church is charged with the mandate of supporting one another in love.
Such benevolence to total strangers who share simply a common faith and spiritual bond of peace is often what gains us credibility to reach out in the world to the lost among us. See Acts 2:42-47, and Acts 4:32-35 for primary textual support.
I definitely don't want to sound like things outside the body are more significant than ministries inside the body. I guess the important thing is to step out and be obedient to where God wants you. Just seems like sometimes it's so skewed with all these ministries for us believers inside our cozy little churches and very little ministry being done outside in the "real" world.
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