Meeting Needs in Church

needsGod wants us to meet needs, but He’s the one who determines what the needs are.

In ministry, we often ask, “What kind of classes would you attend? What could we offer than would help you get involved? How can we offer you a chance to serve in an area you’re comfortable or passionate about?”

It’s important to engage people, asking questions and getting to know them, but giving the impression that we will meet any needs people think they have perpetuates a consumer-focused culture, which has no place in the church. Faith is not about what we can get out of it. That’s a result of faith because God is generous, but if it’s our motivation of faith, we’re selfish, which in and of itself, is in direct opposition of faith.

What do you want because of your selfishness? What do you want “your way”? Maybe it doesn’t look as if you’re selfish. You might be able to get others to believe you’re seeking and following God’s will. You’re being firm about something, not because of what you want, but because of what you’re sure God wants. How sure are you? Are you deceiving yourself, too? Do you want so badly for your way to be God’s way that you’re closing your eyes, ears, and heart to any other possibility?

How are you encouraging others to take the same “me” perspective by asking them what they need or what would pull them into the church community? It’s not just about what you say but how it can be perceived and misunderstood. You might have pure motivations, wanting to meet people where they are, but here’s another possible approach:

Instead of asking for someone’s needs, then having to adjust to meet them, what if you help someone see how their needs can be met by some existing opportunities? When people are hesitant to get involved, they will find the differences between what is available and what they want. You can’t meet every need the way it is presented. But God can meet every need, even the ones you can’t identify. He knows people’s hesitations. He knows your motivations. He knows your willingness to connect and serve. He knows others’ sensitivity and baggage. He will work with it all.

Do you trust Him enough to listen…really listen…and let Him guide, even when you don’t get to decide what to ask, how to respond, and what to plan? Do you trust Him to meet your needs, as well as others’, even if you don’t completely “get” how it all fits together.

He’s a lot more trustworthy than anyone else’s assessment, including your own.

Lord God, You are God; Your words are true, and You have promised this grace to Your servant. (2 Samuel 7:28)

Suffering to Serve

I served at Passion 2014 in Houston, and it takes a small army of door holders—Passion’s phrase for volunteers—who don’t just hold doors. We literally and spiritually open doors for the thousands of college students ushered into the arena and God’s presence for the weekend. I personally served on a resource team, working what seemed to be endless hours, connecting with one student after another.

Why should you care? Well, regardless of whether or not you’ve served at Passion or another large conference, you’ve likely experienced some of the same challenges and thrills I did over the weekend. And there are always lessons we can learn in order to serve better.

Here’s a highlight reel…

  • I talked with young men who came on their own from the Netherlands, Brazil, and Seattle to personally experience an international corporate worship and teaching event. They differed in accents, clothing, and travel times, but each spoke with a sparkle of excitement in his eyes.
  • I heard the word “awesome” more than I think I have ever heard it in my life, and that’s saying a lot, since I grew up in the 80s! It wasn’t an overdramatic description of mundane, daily stuff. It described Jesus and the power of God in and around the lives of thousands of students. And God was (and is) awesome!
  • I had a street corner conversation with a group of girls who can’t wait until they’re old enough to serve as door holders. Well…that’s certainly a new perspective!

choiceI could go on and one, but can’t we all jump up and down about the excitement of events and experiences? Is everything always wonderful?

No.

While I worked with many sacrificial servants who gave up sleep and travel expenses just because they wanted to help provide an environment for students, I also worked among some with different motives. Since serving as a door holder is the only way for adults over 26 to attend, there were some who regularly snuck away or blatantly declared a personal “right” to not miss out on what was going on in the arena. When we signed up to serve, we were told on the front end that we would work long hours with little sleep and few breaks, but because different teams had different schedules, there soon became a stirring of unfairness and entitlement.

I’m not going to point my finger at everyone else without admitting that there were times I thought about trying to slip away unnoticed for an extended break or wondered how I could be sure to get on a less demanding team the next time. But as that attitude began to creep in, God reminded me of the parable of the workers in Matthew 20.

The lesson is that as God’s workers, we’re not entitled to what we think we are. We don’t get to sign up to serve then demand how we serve. Serving is, by definition, selfless. There’s no such thing as selfish serving. If we’re being selfish while serving, we’re not serving.

So, consider…

  • Why do you serve? Why do you do the things you say you do for God? Are they really for God? Have you truly set aside yourself, including convenience and comfort?
  • How do you serve? Do you serve with any reluctance, or do you hold up your hand and jump up and down yelling, “Me, Lord! Pick me!”?
  • Who do you serve? Avoid giving the Sunday school answer. We often deceive ourselves to claim we’re serving God when his name is attached to something like church or missions. In reality, we’re doing what we want and asking him to bless it.

God gives us many opportunities to serve. Sometimes we’ll actually enjoy it, and sometimes we won’t. Sometimes we’ll actually suffer as we serve. I often hear people sarcastically declare they’re “suffering for Jesus,” getting to do something that’s enjoyable while attaching God’s name to it, but let’s be honest. Jesus knows what suffering is. We really have no clue. Until we get a clue, our service isn’t as rich and selfless as it can be.

Let God decide how you’ll serve today. Choose selflessness…with a good attitude.

Wash Their Feet

howbeautifularethefeet2So during the meal Jesus stood up and took off his outer clothing. Taking a towel, he wrapped it around his waist. Then he poured water into a bowl and began to wash the followers’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:4-5

Jesus used water to cleanse others. It shouldn’t have surprised anyone who believed he was the Messiah. After all, he came as the living water, giving eternal life to all who believed. People could take all their sins to him, and he would redeem them. If there was anything he knew, it was other people’s dirt. Washing feet didn’t come close to the dirt he encountered spiritually.

But washing the followers’ feet was different than washing their spiritual feats. This was real dirt on real feet. It was tangible filth and ugliness, and here was the Son of God stooping to wash the feet of those who served him with his very own hands. He proceeded to dry them with the towel he was wearing around himself. He wore their filth.

Jesus washes your filth. He wears it no more. All the filth of the world hung with him on the cross and died with him. When he rose from the dead, there was no more filth. Death was defeated, and as a result, you have the promise of eternal life. Yes, there is still sin in the world. Yes, we’re still messy people, but Jesus already took care of the sinful mess. All we have to do is recognize and accept who he is and what he’s done, and we are clean. We won’t always feel clean, and we need to stay in relationship with him to work through the many issues we have with our uncleanliness, but we are forgiven. We now get to move on and deal with our baggage.

Just as Jesus washes our feet, we have the opportunity to share his love and mercy by washing others’ feet. We might not wash literal feet – although it is a very moving experience to be able to serve people in such a way – but we need to stoop to serve others. We need to place ourselves in a sacrificial position in order to give someone else our time, efforts, compassion, gifts, and resources.

When has someone’s sacrifice impacted your life?

When has your own sacrifice impacted someone else’s life?

Live It. Wash someone’s feet today. It may or may not be literal foot-washing, but look for an opportunity to help someone. God will not withhold the opportunity to serve him by serving others.

Do You Need to Get Busy for God?

too-busy-photoIt’s not an easy answer. There are a lot of people who are super busy with every day life but they regularly don’t seem to be able to “find time” to do the basics God desires for them to do. For every way we answer the question about what we should or shouldn’t do for God, we find exceptions, where someone isn’t doing something (or is neglecting doing something) for the wrong reasons. We rationalize what we’re doing or not doing. And as Christians, we often step under the umbrella of “doing good” for God when we haven’t asked God if what we’re doing is actually for him.

Busyness for God isn’t always doing God’s business.

How busy are you for God?

How busy are you because you think you’re doing what God wants you to do, yet you haven’t paused to ask him? Or you asked him years or decades ago, and you just assume he’ll jump in your path and make it obvious if you’re supposed to change?

One of the attributes of many people in the older generations is a commitment and willingness to serve. When problem-solving with women’s ministry leaders, I often hear complaints from the older generation that “the young people just won’t commit.” Just as often, I hear from the younger generation that “the older people just want things their own way and don’t welcome me to get involved unless it’s on their own terms.”

We have more in common than we think. We want to serve. We want to honor God. We get frustrated. We need others to reach out to us. We crave to live with significance. We needs others to walk alongside us in faith. We get discouraged. We wonder what God wants for us, how we can know his will, and what living an obedient life of faith looks like.

Unless we’re willing to ask God every step of the way, “How do you want me to respond in this situation?” on a daily, moment-by-moment basis…unless we’re willing to respond “yes” to God’s “yes” and “no” to God’s “no” even when we don’t understand, we feel ill-equipped, or we’d rather have something our own way in our own timing…unless we stop doing things just because we think they’re good things to do instead of letting God guide us to and through the God-things of life, we’re not going to claim an obedient life of faith.

If you’re going to stand under the Christian umbrella of doing God’s work, you need to do God’s work…not what you assume is God’s work. Being an obedient servant of Jesus Christ isn’t about doing something because no one else will, doing something you’ve always done, doing something because you don’t believe anyone else can do it as well, doing something that was God’s will for someone else, doing something begrudgingly because you “have to,” and the list goes on. You know what you’re doing or not doing that might look good but isn’t in the middle of God’s will.

It’s time to stop. Or start.

It’s time to honor God with your obedience. Are you bold enough to quite hiding under the busyness of ministry?

Fatten or Feed?

cleanplate“Clean your plate. There are starving children in Africa who would love to have that food.”

It’s true. There are starving people all around the world who would appreciate access to food much more than we do. Of course, getting it to them is an issue. It’s often best to teach farming techniques in their own countries, so they can sustain their nourishment instead of relying on outside sources. The “clean plate club” isn’t as encouraged (or demanded) as it once was, because we’re trying to teach children (and adults) to only eat what they need. The motivation is less about appreciating what others need than the fact we need much less than what we’ve become accustomed to, but the basic premise is the same:

We add more fat to ourselves instead of feeding others.

There are physical applications to this principle, but what about the spiritual application?

What’s the ratio of ministry programming to those who are within the four walls of the church versus those in the surrounding community who might never see the inside of the walls?

How much money is spent sustaining the church building, staff, and programs versus the needs of the surrounding community?

The irony is those within the four walls of the church often complain about how their needs are not being met. The worship music isn’t their style or services aren’t held at convenient times. The small group they want to join doesn’t provide childcare. The doors are locked at an inconvenient time, or the flavored coffee just ran out. Okay, hopefully it’s not that intense, but I’ve known women who can get just a little irritable when they attend a retreat and there’s no French vanilla creamer. (Bring your own if you’re that picky, ladies.)

The more we get, the more we want and expect. Perhaps you’ve never complained about any of the above issues, but have you ever asked why you “have to” do so much when others aren’t matching your standards? Have you complained about the direction of the leadership? What about when someone in particular didn’t visit you or a family member in the hospital? After all, you have certain expectations, and if they’re not met…

What about others’ needs? What if you put their needs in front of yours? Oh, I know, you already sacrifice so much. You tithe. You give money to charities. You serve on boards and committees. You take meals to people in need.

But are you adding more fat to yourself than you are feeding others? Look around. Your everyday lifestyle and comfort will tell the truth.

We don’t impress God with our sacrifice unless we’re willing to give it all to him. We can’t barter with him. And let’s be clear about something: the prosperity gospel—the one that says God will bless you as you give more—isn’t about ledger sheets. You can’t out-give God. He gave everything. He gave his Son to die an excruciating death on earth to make a way for you to have an eternal relationship with him. Do you want to compete with that? You can’t.

Clean your plate? Absolutely. Share it with someone. In fact, just give it all to someone. God’s going to provide for you. He’s providing for others, too, and sometimes that provision goes through your hands. If he places it in your hands, he’s trusting you to pass it on. He often multiplies it in the process.

They said to him, “But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish.”

Jesus said, “Bring the bread and the fish to me.” Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fish and, looking to heaven, he thanked God for the food. Jesus divided the bread and gave it to his followers, who gave it to the people. All the people ate and were satisfied. Then the followers filled twelve baskets with the leftover pieces of food. There were about five thousand men there who ate, not counting women and children. (Matthew 14:17-21)

Receive what God gives and feed others. Today.

I showed you in all things that you should work as I did and help the weak. I taught you to remember the words Jesus said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

Rooftop Friends

rooftopOne day as Jesus was teaching the people, the Pharisees and teachers of the law from every town in Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem were there. The Lord was giving Jesus the power to heal people. Just then, some men were carrying on a mat a man who was paralyzed. They tried to bring him in and put him down before Jesus. But because there were so many people there, they could not find a way in. So they went up on the roof and lowered the man on his mat through the ceiling into the middle of the crowd right before Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 5:17-20)

Do you have friends like the paralyzed man?

They went to a lot of trouble. Not only were they working together to carry him on a mat (instead of one or two people scooping him up) but they weren’t easily deterred. They were persistent in getting to Jesus. When they couldn’t push through the crowd, they looked for another access point: the roof. It wouldn’t have been an easy task to get a man on a mat onto and through the roof, but they worked together and got it done.

Who will carry you as a burden?

This man could do nothing to help. He couldn’t make himself weigh less. He couldn’t limp along, sharing only part of his weight. If they had put him down, he couldn’t have proceeded unassisted. He was completely dependent on them.

Do you try to help others help you, or are you willing to let someone fully carry you through a situation or season?

Jesus noticed “their faith.” He saw compassion in their little community. He noticed mercy in their relationship. He knew that it came from a faith in him so intense that they weren’t willing to stop. They pursued him even if it meant going through the roof to reach him.

Who are your rooftop friends?

We’re often willing to be the kind of friend who does the lifting. We’re willing to help. We’ll sacrifice for others. But are we willing to sacrifice our pride to accept the same kind of help? Are we fostering relationships that invite us to humility, accepting and trusting the sacrificial help of others?

Friends come and go through seasons of our lives, so sometimes we’re in the process of letting go of friendships while we’re in the early phase of planting seeds in other friendships. But we should always be cultivating. We might not know who is going to be in the group of rooftop friends when we need them, but we always need to be intentional in not only investing in others but also letting them invest in us.

(And for my rooftop friends, I’m sending you a huge thank you! I couldn’t get anywhere without your sacrificial support!)

5 Ways to Reach Your Community

umbrella

 

You know needs exist throughout your community, but how can you help? It doesn’t have to be difficult. Simply share!

 

  1. Share a meal. People are hungry, and it’s not just physical hunger. You’re surrounded by people who need to know people around them notice and care for their needs. They experience God’s love, mercy, and provision through people. You might fix a homemade meal and take it to a neighbor who has a busy week, have a meal delivered by a local restaurant, or give a gift certificate for a meal so the neighbor can choose the best day to be treated.
  2. Share a drink. Carry several bottles of drinking water in your vehicle, and watch for people who might be thirsty, particularly on hot days. You can also use the same idea with snacks such as granola bars and crackers with packaged peanut butter or cheese.
  3. Share an umbrella. Purchase umbrellas when you find them on sale, and keep several with you to share with people who find themselves unprepared for a rainy day.
  4. Share a jacket. Chilly days and evenings sometimes catch people off guard. Sometimes people can’t afford to keep themselves warm. When you keep a few hooded sweatshirts of various sizes, you’ll likely find someone who needs to keep the chill away at the ball field, shopping center, or church or community event.
  5. Share an electronic. Phones, laptops, and other gadgets are always in need, and many of us are upgrading to new models while our older models still have use for someone else. Look for single-parent families who need help supplying basic needs and extras or individuals who have pressing medical and other expenses that cut into the possibilities of purchasing nonessentials.