What we need now more than ever:
Tim Keller in his book Center Church writes, “Ultimately, it is impossible to separate word and deed ministry because human beings are integrated wholes — body and soul. It is both natural and necessary that ministers of mercy also minister the Word while they are in the process of meeting human needs, and that communicators of the gospel also show compassion with regard to the material needs of the people they are trying to reach. An integrative ministry means weaving together word and deed ministry as much as possible.”
While the church and its operations are being challenged during this pandemic, the mission of the church remains the same.
But how? How do we as followers of Jesus who cannot gather and assemble at this time strategically and significantly move in united mission to make tangible gospel impact in the lives of others?
Three thoughts come to mind.
Continue To Make Others a Priority
Philippians 2:3-4 are good motivators for us, “… in humility count others more significant than yourselves … look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
It’s a default setting in each of us to look out for our own safety, well-being and interests especially during a crisis. Christians are people who’ve been empowered by the love, grace and fullness of Jesus to live beyond ourselves. We are people who grow in compassion and love for others in demonstrable ways. We disadvantage ourselves for the advantage of others. We focus on service not selfishness especially when things are unsettled. That means in part that we take substantial interest in how our neighbors are doing. We shovel snow, mow grass, send notes, deliver food, make a call, cause a smile, share a resource, offer assistance, pay a bill, offer prayer. We intentionally look for ways to look out for their interests, and act on what we discover, even if it’s inconvenient.
Connect People To God
It seems that times of confusion, fear and uncertainty are fertile places for people to see and hear the gospel of Jesus. Last week I challenged the five boys that work in my bike shop with this, “I want you know that every day I pray for you by name asking God to show you how much He loves you. But I know that a big part of seeing God’s love in your lives is being open and willing to see it. So, my challenge to you is this, while you’re lying in bed tonight tell God you’d like to see how much He loves you and ask Him to show you. You might be surprised at what happens.”
I delivered toilet paper rolls to my neighbor’s porches two weeks ago with a note: “A smile for your Sunday. This too shall pass.” Then I added a scripture verse.
The NextDoor app, like most of social media, is a good platform for encouragement. Turn your neighbor’s thoughts toward hope and security in Jesus with kind and provocative words of faith. Don’t preach, just encourage. Find a good quote or statement or pod-cast and share it.
It seems to me that this is NOT the time to be timid or quiet about our faith. People are open and hungry and listening. Let’s just be kind, inviting and winsome in sharing it.
Care For Your Soul
I am convinced that the best way to do soul-care is to spend our lives on behalf of others in humble, grace-filled acts of love. But there’s more. One cannot care for and serve others from an empty soul. This home-detention we’re all experiencing can be a time of renewal and personal revival IF we lean into it.
Read good articles, books and postings that inspire faith. Listen to the music that makes your heart soar. Absorb the good material in podcast and YouTube offerings. Journal. Stay connected as much as possible with your spiritual buddies (Zoom, FaceTime, HangOut, phone, etc.).
Do things that keep you active and connected to God simultaneously. Pray, listen and respond while running, walking, biking. Let God take over that space in your life that otherwise would be occupied by shopping, scrolling, porn, gluttony, gossip. Form spiritual habits now while you have the time. Habits that feed and free your soul, fill your heart and center your mind.
Christians are change-agents in a world of unrest, fear and uncertainty. Imagine if all the billions of people around the world who identify as followers of Jesus actually took up our responsibility to be the hands and feet of Jesus (Matthew 25) starting right where we are, imagine how different our communities would be.
My high school senior class (1975) had a motto: Our Time Is Now. I know, kind of cheesy and lame, but back then it sounded cool. I guess I’m thinking that’s not a bad motto for the Christian church. Our Time Is Now. Community Impact, the kind that makes a difference, even eternally, is open for business. Let’s step into it with intentionally and wisdom for our good, the good of others and for God’s glory.