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Article on Spiritual Formation: Service

September 19, 2010

Well, school has started back…And that means that it’s very possible that regular blogging will become, well, not so regular.  But who knows, maybe I’ll get to post an excruciatingly long paper soon! 😉  In any case, as I mentioned earlier, one of the things I’m working on at my church is writing ‘spiritual formation’ articles for a coaching website that people may use.  Although you can check it out there, I have decided to post them periodically here as well while I’m slaving away at school!  Here is my most recent one on service.  These small articles are meant to be accessible to those beginning the process of spiritual formation, but will hopefully challenge even those who have followed Christ for some time.  I sincerely hope that they can minister to someone in some way.


Faith with Feet:  Small Ways to Express the Kingdom

“Nothing has contributed to the progress of the superstition of these Christians as their charity to strangers.  The impious Galileans provide not only for their own poor, but for ours as well.”
-Emperor Julian, 4th Century

In its first three hundred years, the Christian movement experienced incredible growth.  As always, there are a number of reasons this is so, but it is undeniable that the charity and service of the early church towards those around them was a major factor in the explosion of Christianity.  The above quote by Emperor Julian is evidence of such ‘others-centeredness.’  Julian was a pagan emperor who desired to revive the old religions of the Roman gods.  Yet, because of the lives of Christian believers and their service to others, he had a very difficult time doing so.  When the church truly reflects the selfless love of Jesus Christ, it fulfills it’s commission to be a light to the world.

In speaking of the process of discipleship, Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw have this to say:

‘Making disciples meant that they were teaching the world to do the things Jesus did.  To wash feet.  To proclaim Jubilee.  To love enemies.  To welcome strangers.  And they would become known as the Way.  Their community was more than just a group of people who shared religious beliefs.  They were a group of people that embodied a new way of living, the way out of the empire where slavery, poverty, war, and oppression were normal.  They were to become the salt and the light of the world.  The credibility of their gospel would res on the integrity of their lives.  For the were not to be the body of Christ.  Jesus would live in them” (Jesus For President, 137).

Two statements are worthy of more attention here.  First, Their community was more than just a group of people who shared religious beliefs.   It’s easy to fall into the trap of becoming a Christian, but then having nothing more than “religious beliefs” as the substance of our faith.  This is not always intentional.  We just forget that when the bible talks about “belief” it is mean as an action word.  It is not primarily about mentally assenting to propositions, but instead about an active and lively trust in Christ and a willingness to walk out that trust in active obedience.

Secondly, The credibility of their gospel would rest on the integrity of their lives.  Wow.  This is at once sobering and liberating.  It’s sobering because the simple fact of the matter is that if we as Christians (“little Christs”) live contrary to the way of Christ, our proclamation—the words we speak—become incredible, or unbelievable.  However, it can also be quite liberating!  If our proclamation is bolstered by our commitment to others in service and love, then what we preach (Jesus Christ) and what we do (Jesus Christ) will match, and the mission of Christ will be fulfilled.  We can count on the power and presence of God to move when we are actively seeking to reflect His commitment to the world.

If you’re like me, you are probably reading this and thinking, “Yeah!  That would be great and I want that!  But…what can I do?”  I find that often there are many Christians who want to do something to spread the kingdom of God but get lost in finding practical ways to do so.  This happens to me all the time.

So, here are some very small, but very powerful ways we, as believers can begin to live others-centered lives.  As with anything, start small!  God has not required you to feed every hungry child in the world.  He’s simply called you to want to live out your faith and be willing to do so.  [The following list comes from Asbury Theological Seminary’s Asbury Reader]

Small Ways to Live Unto Others

  1. Fast a meal for the 2 billion people who live on less than a dollar a day.  Set some money aside and look for someone who needs a few dollars.
  2. Volunteer to tutor a kid at your local elementary school.
  3. Write a hand-written letter to someone who needs encouragement or someone whom you need to reconcile with.
  4. Go through a local thrift shop and drop $ 1 bills in random pockets of the clothing being sold.
  5. Track to its source one item of food you eat regularly.  Then, each time you eat that food, pray for those folks who helped make it possible for you to eat it.
  6. Become a pen-pal with someone in prison.
  7. Go with a group to a restaurant and have everyone leave a 50% tip.  [This one would be a great small-group activity!]
  8. Go to an elderly home and ask for a list or residents who do not receive any visitors.  Visit them each week and tell stories, read the Bible together, or play board games.
  9. Join and open AA meeting and befriend someone there.

10.  Sponsor a child in a poor country through an organization like World Vision or Compassion International.

11.  Send a birthday card to the co-worker, boss, ex-girlfriend/boyfriend that you get angry just thinking about.  Tell them how you appreciate something about them and that you wish them a day of joy.

12.  Invest money in a micro-lending bank.

13.  Confess something you have done wrong to someone and ask this person to pray for you.

14.  Serve in a homeless shelter.  For extra-credit, go back and eat or sleep in the shelter and allow yourself to be served.

15.  Bake cookies and give them to your neighbor just because.

16.  Use your vacation time to volunteer at a summer camp for kids or doing disaster relief here or abroad.

17.  Cook a meal once a week for an elderly person in your church or the single mother/father and her/his children you work with.

18.   Refuse to be a part  of the chain of gossip about someone else; especially about the person you love to gossip about.

19.  Buy only used clothes for a year (and give the money you would save to others who need it more).

20.  Ask your family and friends to donate any money they would have spent on birthday/holiday gift for you to a specific ministry or charity.

These are just a few ways (some very small, some quite big) to begin living others-centered lives.  It would be impossible to do each one of them, but just imagine if 500 people would commit to doing at least one of these.  Can you begin to see what kind of impact serving others would have?  Get your small group to do one of these together.  There is no better way to strengthen friendships with others than by serving together.

Go and live the kingdom today!

One Comment leave one →
  1. mummy4 permalink
    November 20, 2010 10:56

    Its true, people I don’t like if I try to befriend them because I figure perhaps Satan is trying to stop me from having a friendship with them.

    Its funny I end up good friends with some people who initially really rubbed me the wrong way.

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