If pastors are serious about getting people to serve in the community, they must lead the way. I have suggested earlier that one way to show such seriousness is by cancelling one or two Sunday services per month and taking the people into the community serve others.
Such leadership-led church service in the community will show the people that church is not about entering a brick building on Sunday morning, but having a tangible presence in our cities, towns, and neighborhoods. This ultimately is what incarnation is all about, to be present among the people, not asking them to come join us in what we are doing, but to go join them in their activities and events, their sorrow and their pain, their laughter and their joy.
Follow Jesus into the world, not away from it
Too many Christians are trying to escape the world when we should be entering more fully into it. Following Jesus is not about escape. We are not here on earth to say prayers, sing songs, study the Bible, and wait for the rapture. We still have something to do. We must love and serve. We must restore peace and joy. We must announce that the morning has come, the sun has risen, the exile is over. People must be shown that God is not mad, the world is not all evil, and the kingdom is at hand. We must reveal hope, restoration, and redemption. And the only way we can reveal such things is by being present in the world with the people.
But presence is not about going where the people are so we can preach on the street corner, sing Christian songs, or hand out bottles of water with Bible verses on them. Presence is not simply being among people. Presence is sharing life with people, spending time with them, being friends for the long haul. It’s not about getting people to reform their lives so they can be accepted by us and our community. It’s about us entering fully into their lives if they will accept us into their community.
To be present with people, it is quite possible that we must change more than they. We must become more like them then ask them to become more like us. Remember Jesus, according to Philippians 2, when He entered this world, emptied Himself of nearly everything which identified Himself as God, and became fully human. Jesus did not ask us to become more like God; He became like us.
And as we enter into the world, we must do the same.