Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Heart of Compassion for the Community

Our “Neighbor” is not the same as our “Brother”. Our “neighbor”, as you will read later in this post, is anyone in need. Our “brother” is a person who is part of the body of believers.

I point out the difference because churches tend to focus on one or the other of these two groups, but not both. They may have a soup kitchen for their “neighbor”, yet make all of their “brothers” feel guilty for not giving to this need. Often, their “brother” is not better off than the “neighbors” to whom they are trying to force their “brother” to give. They may have a great program for helping their “brothers” in times of need, but nothing for the “neighbors” in the community around them.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” – Galatians 6:10

We are supposed to “especially” meet the needs of our “brothers in Christ”.

But the Greatest Commandments are: 1) to love God with all you have, and 2) love your neighbor as yourself. When asked who his neighbor was, Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan. The message was that the Samaritan, helping an absolute stranger who was in need, fulfilled this commandment. We are to love all people, even enemies.

The people in our community are by far not our enemies. They are our family and friends. They are our mailmen, our grocers, and our repairmen.

If our church is to be spiritually healthy, we must have hearts of compassion for our community. Shoving the Bible down their throats all the time is not an effective way to show our love and concern for the people outside of the church. We need to use our resources to help meet their needs, just as the Samaritan gave his money to aid the injured man in the parable.

How do we develop an effective ministry to the community?

  1. Be willing to help with no strings attached.
  2. Pray consistently for our community and for opportunities to help.
  3. Set aside resources for the basic needs we might encounter.
  4. Make this a priority and prove it is a priority by our action.
  5. Set up a system of communication to stay aware of community needs.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Scripturally Solid Teachers With God’s Agenda At Heart

This may sound a little redundant, but it is really necessary to understand the difference.

There are people who teach scripture, but push a personal agenda on the hearers. These people may think the church needs to be more traditional, so they find reasons to push traditionalism whenever they can – whether it is truly the message in that passage or not. They may believe the church is too stodgy, and find reasons in scripture to go crazy in the aisles that have no inherent message of the kind.

When we study scriptures to prove a point rather than studying to find the truth, we are limiting – even thwarting - God’s attempts to communicate Himself to us. His Spirit is supposed to be the filter by which scripture is sifted for truth, not my opinion or yours. A spiritually healthy church seeks only what God desires for us, nothing more, nothing less and nothing else.

This goes for those who teach anywhere in the church, from the children’s ministry to the small group leaders to Sunday School Teachers and the Senior Pastor. It is not healthy for the church to give a platform to someone who cannot be trusted to help build up the body with an ear toward the Spirit and a heart of unity. Dividing the body with your own agenda is an errand you carry out for the enemy; possibly without knowing it; definitely without thinking.

How do we kindly make sure our teachers are well grounded in scripture and carry no divisive agendas into the classroom?

1. Have prospective teachers fill out a questionnaire.

2. Interview prospective teachers.

3. Train new prospects how to teach scripture.

4. Pair up prospects with experienced teachers as mentors.

Many churches have to beg people just to get teachers for their programs. What good is that? If the teacher doesn’t have the heart, knowledge and desire to teach, he has the potential to become an angry, bitter member, who tries to enforce an agenda because the church somehow “owes him” for agreeing to teach.

Jesus knows His body, well. He has a person to fit every need. Do we trust Him, or do we try to force a “hand” to do the “foot’s” job? That is the problem of forcing someone to teach who is wrong for the job.

A hand can’t be a foot. If we need a foot, Jesus will provide that need for His body. If we need a teacher, God has prepared someone for the job, and they will consider it an honor to serve in such a wonderful capacity!