Service and What it Says About the Gospel

Feed the World
The desire among young adults to make a difference in the world is increasing.

According to a report from the federal Corporation for National and Community Service, college student volunteering increased by 20 percent between 2002 and 2005, more than doubling the growth in the adult volunteering rate. 3.3 million college students volunteered in 2005, almost 600,000 more students than three years before.

As Ivy Jungle reported in its “State of Campus Ministry 2008,”
“Students have shown a significant increase in interest in social action. From Spring Break trips to causes like HIV/AIDS, poverty, and the genocide in Sudan, students have a heart for justice. This has led to a number of new evangelistic opportunities. Community service and mission trips have become entry points for non-believers. Events focused on combating sex trafficking or the World Vision Acting on AIDS campaign have generated great interest. Several groups report a significant increase in conversions. 86% of all campus ministries report someone coming to Christ in their ministry last year. This is despite a continued decline in ‘evangelism’ as a ministry program activity. Creating opportunities for service and helping students see the way social action connects with the gospel will continue to open doors for introducing students to Jesus Christ.”
A gospel message that connects faith in Christ with the holistic gospel of the Kingdom of God resonates with today’s college students. As Ray Anderson writes in The Soul of Ministry, the church is the “result of the dynamic power and presence of the kingdom in the world.” Robert Webber reported in The Younger Evangelicals that new ministries by young evangelicals are realizing that “the church’s mission is to show the world what it looks like when a community of people live under the reign of God. The true gospel is portrayed best by the community that believes it, embodies it, and testifies to it in the midst of any given culture.”

NextChristiansBook4x8300dpi (1)Gabe Lyons, who commissioned the Barna Group to study young adults both inside and outside of the church to better understand a way to reach the next generation (see his UnChristian cowritten with David Kinnaman) writes about a new breed of Christians that has emerged, a group he calls “restorers.”
“I call them restorers because they envision the world as it was meant to be and they work toward that vision. Restorers seek to mend earth’s brokenness. They recognize that the world will not be completely healed until Christ’s return, but they believe that the process begins now as we partner with God. Through sowing seeds of restoration, they believe others will see Christ through us and the Christian faith will reap a much greater harvest.
They are purposeful about their careers and generous with their time and possessions. They don’t separate from the world or blend in; rather, they thoughtfully engage. Fully aware of the seachange under way, they are optimistic that God is on the move—doing something unique in our time.” – Gabe Lyons, The Next Christians: How a New Generation is Restoring the Faith (Doubleday, 2010), p. 47.


Are Our Churches More Secular Than the Culture?

22449_logoIn a post-modern, post-Christian culture, people have become disenchanted with rationalism and Cartesian scientific method. They are interested in pursuing spiritual realities with nonrational and intuitive means.

In spite of the sales of books espousing the “merits” of Atheism, less than 10% of North Americans claim to be atheists.

Many are seeking God, though they have no clue that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life.

Reggie McNeal, in his book A Work of the Heart, writes,

“The church might fail to capitalize on this heightened spiritual awareness… Many Christian leaders are uncomfortable with genuine spiritual realities that involve the powerful and immediate presence of God.

The truth is, many churches are more secular than the culture.

Everything that transpires in them can be explained away in terms of human talent and ingenuity. It would be a huge mistake on the church's part to continue its pursuit of programs and methodological prowess (what ‘works’) when the world desperately seeks for God.”  (p. 81)

How are we offering people a taste of God and His Kingdom in very real ways, ways that are clearly “God-things?” How do we offer people the Kingdom to come – that which is beyond the normal, beyond the plastic, temporary, and pragmatic?



My favorite metaphor from Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity


Jon Stewart played video clips of cars merging before entering the Lincoln Tunnel in New Jersey.
"This is where we are, this is who we are: These cars. That’s a schoolteacher who probably thinks his taxes are too high; he’s going to work. There’s another car-a woman with two small kids who can’t really think about anything else right now. There’s another car, swinging, I don’t even know if you can see it - the lady’s in the NRA and she loves Oprah. There’s another car—an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah. Another car’s a Latino carpenter. Another car a fundamentalist vacuum salesman. Atheist obstetrician. Mormon Jay-Z fan.
But this is us. Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear - often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers.
And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile long thirty-foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty river. Carved, by the way, by people who I’m sure had their differences. And they do it. Concession by conscession. 
You go, then I’ll go. You go, then I’ll go. You go, then I’ll go. Oh my God! Is that an NRA sticker on your car? Is that an Obama sticker on your car? Uh, that’s okay. You go and then I’ll go.
And sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare and he is scorned and not hired as an analyst!
Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together. And the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey.  
But we do it anyway.

Very nicely said.

I have an idea: Perhaps the greatest witness to the grace of love of Christ would be if Christians became the ones who modeled civility in public debates, refusing to caricature opponents, willing to listen as well as to speak, respectfully engaging in debates. Perhaps we can refuse to get caught up in the vitriol that has become the modus operandi of the cable news and radio networks.

Books for Christians to read on this subject:
The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It by Os Guinness
Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World by Richard Mouw