At North Coast Church, we are right in the middle of a 3-week initiative called “Serve Your City:” Give: Serve: Love and so this is “Serve” week. Through this church-wide effort, we are reminded of Jesus’ call to serve and encouraged to engage in projects that positively impact our community simply by the way we Give, Serve and Love them during this time. Over 7,000 community service project spots are available that represent over $1million in billable hours. It will cost North Coast some $120,000 to perform these services and this is where our participant partners come in. Given the pandemic, we may not be able to fill all of those spaces, but then again, maybe we will. Perhaps we’ll even surpass expectations. (In every previous appeal, North Coasters have always proven super generous.)
We’ve sought to inspire contributions from our members to fund these projects. If you do the math, based upon those who’ve recently been giving regularly, that comes to approximately $21/person. Some 3,000+ North Coasters are presently committed to get out into the community to serve on over 200 projects. For those who are not yet ready to get out there, an additional 1,000 or more will be serving through projects they can do at home. If you’d like to participate in any part of our Serve Your City effort, you can find additional information and sign up to serve this weekend via this link.
We were made to serve. And as Jesus’ followers, we are called to serve others, as He did.
In fact, shortly after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Apostle John records that they were together in a place with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, when suddenly Jesus appeared and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. (John 20: 19-20) And then in verse 21 of the 20th chapter of John’s Gospel, “Again, Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.
Did you catch that? In John chapter 20, verse 21 Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
Let’s try to set aside for the moment that people with whom He’d walked and taught for several years; who thought Him to be their Messiah; who just a few days ago knew Him to have been murderously crucified and His dead body laid in a tomb; recognizing also that they must have been wrestling with a tension somewhere between confusion, fear and what to do next and then suddenly, in a room with walls, a ceiling and a locked door, He appears before them in the flesh. How, as believers, we’ve become almost so calloused to the amazing things God can do and have experienced so many situations where serendipity like the 2021 irony occurs that we refer to it simply as a “God thing.” But isn’t it really and genuinely kind of amazing?
Whether you think so or not, I’m claiming that in 2021, Jesus is again telling us, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
Matthew, in his Gospel, writes that Jesus said, 13“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be trampled underfoot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
The Apostle Paul echoes and calls us to a specific kind of service in several of his letters to the churches he started. To believers in Colossi, he wrote, 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12, 17)
To the Ephesians… 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people. (Ephesians 6:7)
As Pastor Larry taught in a recent message, we go out and serve as, in essence, Jesus’ advance team. We faithfully and dutifully serve wherever we see a need, with good attitudes, right and joyful hearts in response to all that He has done for us. Not just out of our abundance but at times, sacrificially as well, just as though we were serving not people, but the Lord; the one who we’ve claimed to be King over everything in our lives. And not with the goal of converting souls, that’s the Lord’s work. As the apostle Peter counsels, “15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15)
As we serve, let’s strive to counter the pre-conceived notions far too many in our culture and society have toward Christians; not “jerks for Jesus” but, as Peter counsels, with gentleness and respect; also knowing that we are not alone.
John 20:22 goes on to say, “And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”
Jesus gave His disciples the Holy Spirit as the means for going into the world as witnesses. I believe He gives believers that same power today and that without God’s divine power and presence, there is little hope of our succeeding in our mission. (John 15:5).
Christian blogger Valerie Murray speaks to this when she writes, “When God calls us to serve him, we find assurance in knowing we don’t rely on our own strength and ability. We rely on the Holy Spirit to make us ready and enable us to fulfill what he’s stirring in our hearts to do.”
But we need to be willing to respond to that stirring; to answer that call.
Practicing our discipleship of servanthood through programs like Serve Your City is just a jumping-off point.
While a powerful and amazing way of learning to serve, whether together or on our own, our response to serve regularly needs to become part of our DNA as Christ-followers.
I love the quote from Chris Brown that speaks to this principle: “You are never closer to the Spirit of God than when you are serving others. You’re never further away from the Spirit of God than when you are expecting to be served.”
In another message, I’ve been inspired by his teaching, “Those disconnected from Christ walk into a room saying, “Here I am…” (Serve me.) Those connected walk in asking, “Where are they…” (How, Lord, may I help?)
May we be viscerally convicted to become people who remain connected and seek out those who God places in our path to serve.
Right there with you,