It is obvious now more than ever that we live in a continually changing world. As the body of Christ, what is our responsibility in these uncertain times? I believe we are about to see the greatest harvest of souls ever, because as the world begins to groan, many people will begin look to God for help. But in order for the Church to be prepared for this harvest, we will have to see and respond to masses of people differently than we have in the past.
I love the way the heart of Jesus responded when He saw crowds of people. “He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). He didn’t just see crowds, He saw people who had needs. He saw men who were crippled, mothers with sick children—people who had no hope and were desperate for love. Everything in Him craved to help each of them. People are His priority, so they should also be our priority. He has given us—the Church—the assignment to reach the world by serving people. We can change the world by serving them one at a time.
Around Healing Place Church we use the term servolution. Servolution is sharing God’s love through simple acts of kindness. It means actively pursuing opportunities to serve the lost, the forgotten and the poor—to show them a God who is passionately in love with them and wants to change their lives. We are seeing God do amazing changes in people’s lives as we find ways to serve our community. But despite the impact for the Kingdom, many people still miss the opportunity to be a part of a servolution.
I think there are probably a lot of reasons why people sometimes miss a chance to serve. One reason people miss opportunities to serve is just being busy. We have so much going on and most of it is actually important. When someone comes to us with a need, there can be a tendency to be frustrated by the interruption. One of the greatest things I see in Jesus’ life is how interruptible He was. He had a plan, but He wasn’t so stuck to that plan that He was incapable of taking a detour. For example, when He was on His way to the home of a ruler whose daughter had just died, He stopped to heal a woman in the crowd following Him. Jesus always seemed to have time for someone who needed Him. We have to realize there is no greater investment of our time than helping a person in need. It is amazing sometimes when you look back at a moment when you have allowed yourself to be interrupted. I had this happen to me during the relief work we were doing as a church in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
It was about 1:00 a.m. when I noticed an old, dirty Honda Accord turning in to the church. I knew they had to be hoping to find some help. I thought, Hmm, bummer that we just closed for the night. They’ll have to come back tomorrow. Then I felt the Lord say gently to my heart, “What if no other car ever pulled in here for help? What if tomorrow and the next day, and the next, nobody else came. Would you still be happy you let this car go away tonight without helping them at all? Dino, you need to understand that these people are a gift.”
I made a u-turn and flagged down the visitors, and asked them what they needed. They had been trapped in their house in New Orleans for two weeks by 10 feet of floodwater. They had squeezed into their attic and lived there for all these days in sweltering heat as they waited to be rescued by the boats. When I opened the doors, 11 people climbed out of the car. The last one was a little toddler. His filthy diaper was hanging down to his knees—a mucky, soiled mess from the 13 days of survival. He was so precious, and the sight of him broke my heart. I thought, Oh my God, I almost turned this one family away. For the next hour-and-a-half, we served this family: feeding them, getting them cleaned up, giving them as many things as we could. I watched as the little toddler’s mom washed him off with baby wipes. He was so happy to be clean and waddled by me giggling, smelling of baby powder and lotion. After they drove away, and we closed everything up again, I sat back down in my car in the dark and put my head on the steering wheel and prayed, “Thank you, Jesus, for helping us not miss this tonight.” At least for those few minutes we got it right.
Do What You Can
Another reason that can prevent people from serving is the feeling that there is so much need in the world, they can’t possibly do enough. Millions of AIDS orphans, so much poverty, so much war, so many people fighting depression, addiction and disease … how could we ever meet all the need? A long time ago I heard Larry Jones say something to the effect of, “Don’t ever let the fact that you can’t do everything for everyone be a reason not to do something for someone.” What an important principle. Start by doing what you can. Serve someone. Give what you do have, and watch how God blesses and increases your capacity to serve and give more.
We Need Each Other
Serving can be expensive. No question about it. There is often a significant time investment and an emotional cost paid by those who serve. There’s also the financial requirement that can be associated with serving people. And we don’t always have enough of these resources available (time, energy and money) to be able to meet the needs we’re facing. My friend Paul Scanlon was at our church a few months ago, and he said something that really describes how we have seen God work here at Healing Place Church. In his very cool Bradford, England accent, he said, “Your resource is in your relationships.” There is an extravagant blessing in partnership. When churches pray together—not one church praying for its own interests, but churches praying for each other—and when churches truly love each other, there is an immense power and blessing that God will unload on them.
I Can’t Wait
If we will refuse to surrender to any excuse not to serve—to make other people’s problems our problems, to be interruptible, to do what we can and to work together—I believe our best days are ahead of us.
A version of this article originally appeared in Neue Quarterly 02.