My church has a medical-equipment ministry.
By that, I mean that volunteers from the church refurbish or collect donated medical equipment (everything from wheelchairs to toilet chairs to wheelchair ramps to oxygen tanks) and give it for free to those in need. It is a big ministry that has taken off lately, and a volunteer in it recently shared a story that made me smile:
An 80-year old man living in a mobile home in our state was wheelchair-bound and confined inside of his home because he did not have a wheelchair ramp and could not afford one. He literally never went outside unless his daughter came to take him. Because of the church’s ministry, he received a wheelchair ramp – and now, every day, he goes outside to have his coffee in the sunshine.
What I love about the ministry, and about the story, is that it’s all about Christians going out. Taking love to the community. Taking God to the community. Taking service to the community. Yeah, the refurbishing of the devices happens on-site at church, but the rest of it is all about driving around, meeting strangers, dropping things off and picking things up.
I am convicted lately by the way our churches have become destinations rather than launchpads. We are becoming dangerously insular, and expectant that those in need or those who are seeking will and should find us rather than the other way around. Many larger congregations have so many amenities in their building that they literally have no reason to be anywhere else; they can exercise, drink coffee, receive therapy and medical screenings, shop, watch movies, and drop off their kids at one single place. And a lot of ministries operate within churches as a point of destination, too: come to us, and we’ll…
We have less and less impetus to actually get out of the church and go somewhere.
But Christianity is a blessedly itinerant faith. By nature, Christians have historically been wanderers. Yes, in the New Testament believers settled down in small communities, but they often used those communities as starting points for journeys both large and small. They went, generally, wherever Jesus was not, and they brought Jesus with them there. And I long to see more of that in the church.
This doesn’t mean that every believer has to be a missionary, although we need those, for sure. For me, it means getting involved in my community and serving in a local community group. The group has nothing to do with church or religion; if Jesus is there, it’s because I and other believers are bringing him. And that’s precisely the point. We can reach out and serve others not by drawing them in, but by our willingness to go out.
Are you church-bound? Do all your ministries and all your service and all of your loving occur within or end up at your church? If so, maybe it’s time to shake things up a bit. And it’s not hard to start. To take a small step, join a ministry at your church that (like our medical ministry) is committed to going out into the community and doing work. For a larger one, see what needs you can meet in your local community as a whole. Start a book club, join a community service organization, volunteer, meet your neighbors, preside over a workplace lunch bunch. Whatever you want. Look around you, at everything in your life that isn’t church, and start there.
Journeys into the world, large and small, are a part of the Christian life.