Posted by: Brian Musser | July 2, 2012

Serving in the name of …

What If You Were Equipped to Share Christ through Your Relationships?

On May 28th I asked that question in a post entitled Relational Evangelism.  If you haven’t read that post before check it out and make sure you take the poll.  What if your next evangelism training concentrated on helping you share your faith with those who you are already in relationship with?  Would you find that useful?  Do you want to know how to share what you believe about Christ with those you care about most?  For those of us who identify as evangelical Christians the answer should be an obvious yes.  I’m not perfect at it but one of the core ingredients I find to share the Gospel with someone I know is through service.  This is not my idea.  This is not a new idea.  Hopefully you have heard of this before.  Steve Sjorgen has an entire website about it.

I won’t be able to top the extensive resources he has but there are three things that I want to say on the subject.  To begin our discussion, let’s watch a scene from Les Miserables (the 1998 version).  By the way, I love this movie.  I highly recommend it and if you have my copy of it please give it back.

Our Christ-like service will cost us.

What strikes us in this clip first is the cost to Bishop Myriel.  He is standing there with a cut on his head putting several thousand Francs of silver into the sack of Jean Valjean.  The Bishop is both hurt physically and financially.  Doing this act of service also is going to cost him relationally with the other members of the household.  They don’t understand why he would be willing to serve the thief Valjean.  Often we talk about modelling Christ in our service.  We talk about serving in a Christ-like manner.  Do we realize how much serving actually cost Christ?  If we want to serve others in any way, shape or form that resembles the service of Christ for humanity, it will have to cost us something.

This is one reason why service is more powerful in relationship.  When I give $5 to a homeless person on the street, it is a good thing.  He will be blessed by what I did for him but he doesn’t understand and might not even consider if that giving on my part was any sort of sacrifice for me.  When I buy lunch for a friend of mine who is down right hungry, she knows that money isn’t always easy for me to come by.  She will know that I sometimes struggle financially myself.  She will know that I am willing to sacrifice something I have for her.  In relationship the value of the act of service can be better communicated.  The more you know and understand God, the more significant Christ’s sacrifice on the cross becomes.

Service is extremely powerful in the context of relationship.

Not only is service powerful in the context of relationship because it allows the one being served to better understand the cost of the service but relationship also allows us to better meet the needs of the one being served.  I often use the illustration that if my mom asked me to dry the dishes, mowing the lawn instead isn’t an act of service to her.  When we are in a relationship with someone we get to know them and can truly understand their needs.  Sometimes as Christians we tend to serve people in very generic ways that don’t always meet their needs.  We may even serve them in ways that are damaging.

A personal conviction of mine.  I do ministry on a campus.  At times I’ve offered students enormous amounts of caffeine, especially during Finals Week.  Although, this is an immediate need and a good way to gather and serve a large number of students, is it truly serving them?  Or am I feeding and reinforcing destructive habits in their life?  As churches in America, with the development of the trend of our nation to be overweight, is it truly a service to offer all-you-can eat fellowship meals?  Getting to really know people might change how we serve them.

We need to balance serving felt needs with serving real needs.

Going back to the Les Miserable clip, Bishop Myriel meets Valjean’s felt need by giving the silver that he can sell to feed himself and provide for his everyday needs.  But in a scene not shown we learn that even after a brief conversation with him the Bishop understands Valjean’s true need is to see mercy and grace from the hands of men before he could ever look for it from God.  Serving felt needs gives us the opportunity to serve real needs.  Providing food for those who are hungry gives us the opportunity to come to know people.  Getting to know them provides us the avenue to deal with why are they really hungry and maybe we can provide resources for them to no longer be hungry.  But also as we serve and touch their real needs, we will touch their hearts.  We will be able to communicate to their ultimate need and that is a restored relationship with the God of the universe through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Ed Stetzer recently did an excellent post about not just relying on our actions to communicate the Gospel.  Our service needs to be in the context of verbally sharing the life-changing story of Jesus.  But can you imagine what would happen if you truly served the real needs of those you are already in relationship with while sharing the Gospel?  Lives would be eternally changed!

Feel free to comment.  I would love to hear personal stories of how you have been able to truly serve someone in the context of verbally sharing Christ with them as well.  Or what would be even more powerful is if you were the one who was being served and encountered the the Gospel in a way you never experienced before because someone you knew took the time to serve you.

If you liked this post share it with you friends and remember typically on Monday’s I’ll be writing about Evangelism so come on back and check it out.


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