Like so many things in Christian belief, I think the answer isn’t either/or.
Instead, as it is so many times in the Kingdom of God, I think the answer is both/and.
Also, as is often the case, the difficulty regarding service is the balance between service by and to the Body and service by and to the world.
Ministry: Service by the Body of Believers, to the Church
Yes, service by the church, and to the church, the Body of Christ, is required.
12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.
14 For the body is not one member, but many.
18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.
25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 NAS
I call this “Ministry” and the Holy Spirit manifests in each believer for the spiritual growth of the Body.
4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually * members one of another. 6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Romans 12:4-13 NAS
I think members of the church are not to live outside of the local cultural society. I do not believe, as do the Amish, that Christians are to live out of the world.
Nevertheless, I think, too many times churches have programs and activities that are primarily aimed at their members/ attenders, and not necessarily to “others” outside of “their” church.
I do not think that this is always, or even often, due to a deliberate decision to exclude “others.”
But I have seen a notice in the local newspaper, an announcement and invitation to “Praxis” without any explanation of “what in the world is that?” or why anyone would bother to be interested! While I’m sure everyone connected with the “Praxis” program knew exactly what it was, few outside of the church, or maybe even in their church, knew what it was all about. Unrecognized and unacknowledged “church-ese” got in the way.
I have seen big signs at churches advertising “VBS” to a world-at-large which has no idea what “VBS” is or who it’s for. (Even “Vacation Bible School” would be a mystery to many non-Christians.) More unrecognized and unacknowledged “church-ese” gets in the way.
Mission: Service by the Church, to the World
And yes, service outside of the Body is required.
While in the synagogue in Nazareth, Yeshua read from the scroll of Isaiah the prophesy He had come to fulfill. We, as His Body on earth, are also to continue His work of service to the world.
18 “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, Luke 4:18 NAS
(See NOTE at end)
35 ‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Matthew 25:35, 36 NAS
I call this “Mission” and every believer has been given a mission (a co-mission, to be done in co-operation with the Holy Spirit) to make disciples and expand the Kingdom of God on earth.
The Great Commission
18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always *, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:18-20 NAS
Yes, many good things are done by the people of churches all over the US and the world.
People are helped. Lives are changed. The Word is spread. The opportunity for relationship and reconciliation with God is offered and received.
But I think some of those good things are actually done for the benefit of the doer.
Benefits to Christian Doers
- Acknowledgment and accolades for their service, both by others in the church as well as those outside the church
- Feeling like they are building up “brownie points” of good deeds in order to “prove” their righteousness
- Power and control of “their” pet project (and not seeing it as humble service to God)
Philanthropy: Service in the World, Not Done by the Church
But, many good things are being done by people outside of the church and para-church organizations.
People of the secular world work tirelessly and passionately for social justice amelioration and reform.
Many of these organizations are doing the same work, helping the same people, promoting the same reforms as church-based and para-church organizations, albeit, without a Christian world view.
But, What If Believers Worked Alongside Non-believers?
The Blessing of Partnership
The witness of believers is expanded when they work alongside non-believers.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot * be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 NAS
Believers would be a witness to those being served, the same as serving through a church or para-church organization. (Although, perhaps not as overt witnesses as when they are with fellow Christians.)
AND believers would be a witness to their fellow (non-believing) workers.
Wow! What an Idea!
What if non-believers saw Christians serving the same people, the same cause, as they are supporting?
- Without judgement or condemnation of those they think Christians may call “sinners.”
- Without prejudice or hatred by Christians toward “others” not like themselves.
- Without strident, obnoxious, “preachy” proselytizing?
- With an opportunity to see Christian beliefs in action.
- With an opportunity to ask about the Christian faith in a neutral location (the third place).
- With an opportunity to “see” Christ in an individual Christian, and not as a preconceived idea of the concept of Christians as a whole.
This is definitely a Win-Win-Win-Win:
- A win for God
- A win for believers
- A win for non-believers
- A win for those being served
Consider Your Service to God
Is it either/or? Is it both/and?
- Do you serve both people inside the church and people outside of the church?
- Do you serve with both people inside the church and with people outside of the church?
How do you serve God?
It’s ok to doubt, if you check it out!
Be a Berean!
10The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Acts 17:10, 11 ESV
Please join me in this journey of discovery.
- Leave a comment, or ask me a question.
- Share this blog with others, whether they are doubting, or not.
- Take what I say and CHECK IT OUT FOR YOURSELF!
In the NAS (New American Standard), quotes from the Old Testament are written in ALL CAPS. I like this feature, as it visually shows just how much the writers of the New Testament referred to their Hebrew Scripture, the TaNaKh.
© 2017 by the author