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.
Last week I wrote about entire cultures comprised of people who never get a chance to truly celebrate Christmas—because they’ve never heard of Jesus. There are over three billion people who live in these ethno-linguistic groups, about 40% of the earth’s population. I also explained that of these people groups, there remain approximately 1,400 (around 568 with populations over 5,000) who are unengaged by the church. No one is yet doing anything to bring them the good news of God’s love.
It’s all well and good to make these lists and to bemoan the fact that after 2000 years, there are still entire people groups who are being left out of all our mission efforts. But awareness by itself accomplishes nothing. What can we do to change this situation? More importantly, what can I do?
Jump out of bed. Throw on workout clothes. Fry egg, drink tea, spend ten minutes reading the end of Colossians. Rush out the door, head for Curves. Dive into my 30 minute workout; spend 15 more stretching, then cool down for half an hour while chatting with some very interesting ladies. Drive home, clean up, throw on clean clothes. Write blog post, run out door for appointment downtown.
And on and on it goes.
How in the world did I get so busy? Why do I have so little time? And I only work part time! What if I had a job that took up 40 hours a week—or more?
It’s not just me. Everyone I know seems to be running at top speed. We fill our calendars then wonder why we feel so stressed. It’s an epidemic.
I can cut up a melon in minutes, core and slice a pear like a pro, roll and wrap a burrito before you can say, “egg and cheese and potato.” I can even run the industrial dish washer! How did I get so skilled? I volunteered to work in our church’s café.
Yes, this is the same eatery I complained about in my blog, “Carb Café.” The menu still mostly includes foods I cannot eat on my low-carb, sugar-free diet. At least they offer salads, paninis, and fruit cups now. I’m proud to say, Pete and I cut up all the fruit, at least on the Sundays we work.
Continuing the series on What to Give God for Christmas…
Jesus didn’t stop with telling us to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. He wants us to love other people as much as he loves them. That’s a tall order! How do we go about loving others?
There are as many ways to love others as there are others to love. This is where we get to be a bit creative.
By all means, do something special for those on your Christmas list. One of my love languages is “gifts” so I can appreciate how well a carefully chosen present will convey the love of the person giving it. Even here, there are ways to help others while blessing your friends and family. I always check out the gifts on fair trade websites, especially for those hard-to-shop-for people; these organizations are a good source of handmade, one-of-a-kind items. For starters, I recommend Trade As One. I’ve been more than pleased with both their products and their service. (See last year’s post on fair trade.)
Last month, I whined about discussed the dearth of churches that disciple believers to maturity and then keep them well fed on spiritual meat. It’s good to point out problems, but more helpful to put forward suggestions on how to fix those problems. So, what do we do when we’re hungry for more of God, and church is only offering Happy Meals?
Most of us know to say no when someone asks us to do something wrong. But sometimes you have to say no to something good in order to be available when God calls on you. Pete’s friend (we’ll call him “Steve”) discovered just how important saying no can be.
Given the state of the economy, it was no surprise when Steve was laid off from his high tech job a couple of years ago. While disappointed to find himself without an income, he wasn’t overly worried. He had salted away some savings, and figured he’d find another position before too long. After all, he had excellent technical skills, and plenty of experience in his field.
However, Steve was in for a surprise. When he started praying about his job search, God clearly told him, “Don’t look for a job. I’ll bring your next job to you.” That sure ran against the advice everyone else was giving him. How could he just sit around and wait for God to do all the work? Still, he was obedient, and did not send out his resume or fill out applications. And the months passed.
What ever happened to paying for work?
The website announced:
Obama for America invites artists from across the country to volunteer their creativity to support President Obama’s plan to create jobs now, and his re-election campaign to keep fighting for jobs for the next four years.
Seems that artists aren’t included among those who need jobs. (See the Graphic Artists Guild’s response.)
Pete and I enjoy giving financially. This doesn’t make us super spiritual, and I’m not trying to brag or impress anyone—it’s just that we both find giving to be lots of fun. I am quite sure our attitude is a direct result of God working in us, rather than anything we achieved for ourselves. It’s a gift from the Holy Spirit.
However, as I wrote a few months ago, we’re currently “treading water” financially. We haven’t received a paycheck since October. Since there’s no income, we have nothing to tithe on, and we’ve cut our discretionary spending to zero. It’s frustrating.
Well, frustration can be the impetus to start thinking more creatively. Sunday afternoon, Pete and I sat down together and said, OK, we can’t afford to write checks. How else can we give? Sometimes our culture is so focused on money, we miss other things we can spend. A bit of soul-searching was all it took to come up with a few ideas: