Theme #4: Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating.In much of the Barna report there haven't been many bright lights. However theme #4 generates some hope. Barna writes:
Largely driven by the passion and energy of young adults, Christians are more open to and more involved in community service activities than has been true in the recent past. While we remain more self-indulgent than self-sacrificing, the expanded focus on justice and service has struck a chord with many. However, despite the increased emphasis, churches run the risk of watching congregants' engagement wane unless they embrace a strong spiritual basis for such service. Simply doing good works because it's the socially esteemed choice of the moment will not produce much staying power.I think theme #4 resonates beyond the Christian culture to a general desire by the youth of the nation to find something more meaningful in their lives. As we'll discuss next time, moral relativism has been a dominant influence in shaping the values of younger Americans ( as this Barna report shows)—and Christian youth are not exempt from its influence. Given that the boundaries of right and wrong have become so fuzzy as to practically disappear, it's no surprise that young people want to find something to grab onto in providing long-lasting meaning to their lives. Community service fills that need.
However, as the Barna report notes, "Simply doing good works because it's the socially esteemed choice of the moment will not produce much staying power." The church has a unique opportunity to do good things for their community; To do things which have a positive impact on those closest to the church itself. In so doing, the church must anchor these actions in the love of Jesus and the Christian worldview.
In his book How Christianity Changed the World, Alvin Schmidt notes that it was Christians who fought against infanticide, opposed the gladiatorial games, and began the first hospitals and orphanages. They did this because the Christian worldview held that all human beings were made in the image of God and their value was intrinsic to being human, not to the benefit they could offer the state. They also saw that as Jesus sacrificed Himself for them, they should sacrifice for others, thus reflecting their Lord's love of all people. They sought to be like Jesus.
Given that young people today, especially Christian youth, desire to do something deep and meaningful while helping their community, the Church has a great opportunity to reach out in love, to touch the lives of others and to show one way Christianity is still incredibly relevant in the world today.
Tips on Reflecting Christ by Community InvolvementFor the individual:
- There are many local rescue missions who reach out to the homeless. Check the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions site for member organizations.
- Call a local crisis pregnancy center and ask how you can help. You can find one close to you at www.optionline.org
- In whatever outreach you involve yourself, make sure they are a Christian organization with an orthodox statement of faith. Your church may be able to recommend some. You will be assured that those they minister to are not only getting their physical needs met, but their spiritual needs, too.
- Invite an unsaved friend to volunteer with you. You'll have time and an opportunity to expose others to the work of the church.
- Be diligent to check out all the local social service organizations in your area for those that your church can recommend as being sound and faithful to the gospel effort.
- Don't just keep a list of recommended organizations, but announce it and encourage participation from your congregation from the pulpit.
- Have your youth groups plan on volunteering at least once yearly in some type of service project.
- Think about creative ways your church can serve those in need. How about a Saturday morning with all the single moms can bring their cars in and the church men can change the oil or provide basic services? How about a repair ministry to help the elderly fix portions of their homes? There are many ways your church can effective without having to expend more of the budget.