where philanthropy falls short.

I was recently part of a discussion about a church supported service project. A number of different ideas were on the table, none of them mine. The project itself wasn’t my priority. They were all good ideas. All needed. All would “do good.”

My concern, what I had been thinking and praying about for over a week prior to this meeting was that whatever service project we decided upon, it would track back to Jesus Christ.

Over the years, I’ve observed and/or been a part of a number of church supported service projects, at a number of churches – very, very few of which led to an open door to share the gospel.

All were good. All were needed. All did “good things.”

But serving those in need without tracking back to Christ is just philanthropy, not Christian mission.

I feel a metaphor coming on.

It’s like providing someone in a desolate land with clean water. Don’t get me wrong, giving someone clean water is a good thing. A very good and often needed thing. But…

Jesus Living Water Never be Thirsty Againto continuously give someone water and never tell them why your own cup is overflowing,

to continuously give someone water and never tell them about the source of your unlimited supply,

to continuously give someone water and never show them how you found this source and how it’s changed your life,

to never explain how they could have their own unlimited supply, free, every single day, for the rest of their lives…

falls short.

I’m not talking about turning a firehose on them and blasting them with water at full force.

I’m not talking about grabbing someone by the arm and dragging them to the source of the water – against their will.

I’m not talking about haranguing someone about why you think they need the water.

I’m talking about making sure they don’t mistake you for the source of the water because you’ve kept the source of your overflowing cup a secret.

I had been praying about whether to bring all this up at the meeting. I was new. I could just be quiet.

(I know. Me. Quiet. bwa. ha. ha.)

Every day I thought about it, it made me anxious. And I knew my silence would be a facade.

I would be hiding to avoid the possibility of being rejected and ostracized.

I would be taking the chicken-walk.

Silence would allow me to stay under the radar. Zero risk of exposure as a Jesus Freak.

But also zero risk of discovering who else in the room was a Jesus Freak, especially one whose own source has filled them with a similar resolute passion to:

go and make disciples” and

always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”

John Piper living water quoteand to point people to “living” water.

I waited. I listened. A few ideas were introduced.

no mention of Jesus.

I waited a little longer. If someone else brought it up, I wouldn’t have to. I’d be off the hook and the Holy Spirit would stop poking me.

A few more ideas were introduced.

no mention of Jesus.

I asked the Holy Spirit to please poke someone else.

The discussion continued and started to branch off into tangential discussions about logistical details and possibilities.

Finally, I raised my hand. To soften the blow, I started out by saying that I’d seen so many other churches forget Christ in their efforts to serve others.

I didn’t mention “other churches” to point fingers at the speck in their eye. I mentioned them as a subtle reminder that, as evidenced by the previous 15 minutes of discussion, our own vision was obscured. I mentioned them as a wake-up call that we ourselves are not immune to that same forgetfulness.

What I didn’t say was that if we’re not intentional about seeking out and including opportunities to share Christ as we serve, we are no different than those generic “other” churches I mentioned. If we’re not intentional about seeking out and including opportunities to share Christ as we serve, we’ll be no different than non-Christian charities.

Instead, I asked that whatever service project we picked, it lead to an open door to share Jesus.

Not one person responded with resistance. No one raised concerns that we might offend someone. No one explained how I was wrong and that reference to Christ was unneeded because our faith was already implied. No one told me that service was part of a process and that our service is witness enough on its own. No one cautioned against forcing our beliefs on others.

Instantly, the discussion shifted to how we might include sharing not only our gifts and our time, but that our motivation for, and our source of strength in, the serving is an outgrowth of our relationship with Christ.

And the next time we met, the Holy Spirit poked someone ELSE and they brought it up!

Is the Holy Spirit poking you?

Risk obedience.

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