18 Jan Serving Our City
There is no question that Jesus calls us, as His followers, to serve others sacrificially and to make disciples. How obedient are we to that call?
We choose to “engage” in many things— hobbies, relationships, exercise, getting ahead at work, our comfort or leisure. Are we intentionally engaging our community and those in our sphere of influence on their terms? Are we known as a people who reach outside of ourselves to draw others in, or are we a group primarily focused on our ourselves in a “holy huddle”?
We should desire to serve and share because we know that the life change Jesus offers is real and transformational for all people. Does our service place us in positions to have relationships with unbelievers? Are we sacrificially giving of ourselves and our time to serve our neighbors, schools, workplaces, and community organizations to meet the needs of hurting people, to develop relationships, and share what Jesus has done in our lives?
“We often need to set aside our own motives and desires and humbly serve in order to build the trust and relational capital that are needed to affect real life change.”
While on a recent mission trip, I experienced the tension of wanting to serve on my terms, in a way that made the most sense logically and efficiently, versus setting aside my pride and arrogance and coming alongside a local leader to show respect and build relationship. During our team’s pre-trip planning, I was responsible for a project, but when we arrived in country, a local leader who we hadn’t expected quickly took charge. She had very strong opinions about how things should work and was not interested in discussion or compromise. It would have been easy for me to hold on to my own plan and expectations and push to do it my way. With God’s grace alone, I backed down, served less efficiently but humbly, and the entire dynamic of my interactions with this woman changed. There were new possibilities and opportunities for real conversation. In the end, it was freeing to release my preconceived ideas, submit to God’s plan, and be led by the Holy Spirit to come alongside and empower the local leader. We were able to collaborate and respect one another because of the Spirit’s work in me.
The same ideas apply as we serve alongside others in our community. Demanding our own way or simply going through the motions of serving can threaten the work that God can do in and through us. We often need to set aside our own motives and desires and humbly serve in order to build the trust and relational capital that are needed to affect real life change.
Tim Keller says, “Christians in cities must become a counterculture for the common good. They must be radically different from the surrounding city, yet radically committed to its benefit.” I challenge us to think more critically about where, how, and why we are serving in the Upstate.
As God’s church, we are collectively responsible for our reputation and the work in our city as His representatives.
If we believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, are we living as if the lives of those around us depend on knowing and embracing that Truth? Let’s make the most of every opportunity to make Jesus’ name great. Let’s engage our city in such a way that our service is attributable only to God. God wants to reach hurting people in our community, and He does it through each one of us. Are we ready to be the agents of change that He intends and equips us to be? Are we willing to respond in obedience, setting aside our fear, our status, and our egos no matter the cost, to move closer to the marginalized and draw them in?
“If we believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, are we living as if the lives of those around us depend on knowing and embracing that Truth?”
Take a step this week. Consider your strengths, your individual gifts and your season of life. Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity; do something now. Be open to things you haven’t considered. Move and see what God does.
● Invite that neighbor over for dinner and begin an intentional conversation, sensitively, genuinely, patiently, not stridently. Follow up.
● With your community group, find an organization we are working with to serve as a group or individually.
● Own a cause together, like foster care, and encourage each other to find different ways to serve that cause that makes sense for each individual. One family might become licensed for respite care, another might donate to the Foster and Adopt Resource Center, someone else might rally others to recognize Grace family foster kids’ birthdays in a special way.
● Set some goals, share them with a friend, and ask them to hold you accountable. The options are limitless.
By extending ourselves and our service, we can make a difference in the Upstate. We can reach others and invite them to share the life of hope, change, and joy in Christ that we experience. What’s keeping you from engaging and sharing that life changing news?
Midway through launching her four teenage/young adult kids into the world, Keri enjoys life with her loving husband, a fun job, and random volunteer roles. She has a weakness for iced mochas and cookie dough, but fortunately likes to exercise too. She’s working on saying yes to more things that matter and no to more things that don’t. Keri attends our Downtown campus.