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