Christian life can never be reduced to a “me and Jesus” sort of spirituality because Jesus never gave us such an individualistic and self-centered option. His summary of the Old Testament Law forces us to reckon with the reality that our love for God will be demonstrated in our love for our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). This can sound quite respectable until we realize we must love the neighbors we like as well as those we do not. In addition, if our life of corporate worship is to have any integrity we have to live out the songs we sing on Sunday in our actions throughout the week. For most Christians, serving others in Jesus name takes place in two primary environments.
The first environment being the gathered Church, here every Christian should have some sort of ministry or regular opportunity for service. This could range from ushering, to leading a men’s group, to serving on a parish council, preaching, fixing the toilet, making cupcakes for the youth group, monitoring the church’s investment account, etc. whatever, as long as it is done for others in Christ’s name. For most Christians the gathered Church should NOT be their primary area of service to others.
The second environment for service, and for most Christians the primary environment for service to others, will take place outside of the gathered church, in other words in everyday life, outside of the church building. This means at work, in the neighborhood, in politics, in recreational groups, in every aspect of life outside of the gathered Church. Doing this is not easy and involves learning to make connections between one’s faith and every other aspect of one’s life. Serving beyond the confines of our local church challenges our faith in a number of ways:
- It challenges us to realize that Christian faith, if it is going to matter, has to impact our daily living.
- It challenges us to realize that being involved in every activity at Church could actually be a problem, as it prevents one from serving out in the community.
- It challenges us to get comfortable with serving with non-Christians and with good causes that may be purely secular but are doing good things in our community none the less.
- It challenges us to realize that ministry and service is not just for the Mother Teresa’s or the preachers of the world, but for all of us.
- It challenges us to remember that the real work of being a Christian usually takes place outside of official church gatherings and meetings.
So remember to serve at your local church, but also remember to serve beyond your local church.
How has your spiritual life grown as a result of serving others, both at church, and beyond?