Last week was our church’s annual SERVE Gala. The staff went all out to let our church volunteers know they’re loved and appreciated, and each of our church’s five campuses singled out a Volunteer of the Year. It was fun, heartfelt, an excellent way to say thank you for all the time and effort members of our congregations invest in our church.
Pete and I were there because we, too, are church volunteers, helping out in a variety of ways. I believe that every churchgoer should serve their church body, according to their gifts and abilities. (Check out Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12.)
But there was something missing, something I rarely see mentioned when it comes time to talk about serving: while helping out at church is important, not all serving should happen in the church.
If you could have anything you want, what would it be? A new car? A bigger house? A billion dollars, so you could have both of those, and more? Or would you prefer perfect health, a fitter body, or the ability to eat all you want yet never become overweight? Maybe you’re yearning for a spouse, or a child, or you dream of spending more time with a loved one who has passed away.
Now think about heaven. Yes, perhaps we’ll have material items (we don’t really know). We will certainly have perfect health in our new bodies (2 Corinthians 5:1-4). We look forward to being reunited with people we love. But most of all, heaven means that we’ll be with Jesus.
How does that old song go? “Summertime, and the living is easy…” Well, not this summer! Somehow, the calendar is suddenly full. Pete is working full time, and trying to sort out his medical bills and insurance payments from his heart “event” earlier this year. My schedule is packed as well. We desperately need time—with one another, and with God together.
You have likely heard of Unreached People Groups (UPGs)—ethnic groups of peoples where the number of self-professing Christians is under 5% of the population.
Unengaged UPGs (UUPGs) are those groups the church has not yet attempted to reach. They still lack any kind of witness among them, and there is not even a plan to create one. There is no way they could hear about Jesus unless someone crosses a cultural barrier to bring them the good news.
Now there’s a new term circulating among missiologists: Frontier People Groups (FPGs). While the definition is still in flux, the label was added to make a distinction between UPGs where God has begun a work, and those groups yet to experience their first church.
Lately, I’ve noticed that there’s a whole lot of public shaming going on. It doesn’t even need to be for a egregious sin.
For instance, I was reading a Facebook post where someone bragged that they hung all their laundry on a clothesline, and couldn’t understand why any sane person would use a clothes dryer. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with hanging your clothes out to dry. But it was the attitude, one of “do what I do or you are a terrible person” that bothered me. The implication was that she was superior to us lesser mortals who use clothes dryers, and we should change to imitate her.
By the time you’re as old as Pete and I are, life has thrown some pretty dramatic curve balls. There have been periods of calm, joy, success, and everything going just right. And then there are those times when all hell breaks loose (literally), the enemy attacks, and you wonder what in the world God is doing!
Pete’s recent medical adventures (see my March 15 post: Pete Tries to Go to Heaven… Again) have proved to be both a “what in the world!” experience and a huge opportunity to know God better. One thing that God has impressed on me over the last few months is that He is in charge even when everything is going crazy.
Great adventures make great stories, the kind we love to hear about. There’s the suspense—will the hero live to overcome evil? There’s the thrill of God’s light and love overcoming darkness. We all love a good page-turner.
In this case, the circumstances are real and the story is true.
Disclaimer: I have not read this book—yet. However, the author, Dan Baumann, recently came and talked to our missions-oriented Sunday school class. If his book is half as good as his talk, you have to read it! I certainly plan to.