For about 4 or 5 years I volunteered for a coalition of churches, that focused on addressing a few major local issues such as homelessness. Early on this organization’s first major step in dealing with this growing problem was to build a ?Check-in-Center.” This was a place for those experiencing homelessness to store their belongings. The construction of the center was fairly simple. It was on the ground floor of a parking structure and used plastic containers to store each person?s items separately. The Check-in-Center was a huge success for many reasons, one of which was the sense of community among the homeless population it created.
One of the residents, who later became a dear friend of mine, began volunteering at the check-in-center. We became friends because he was always wearing Angels baseball gear and listening to games on his radio. It was a little awkward at first as my privilege was on full display when I started talking about the visible features of the game. He didn?t get to watch games on TV, but enjoyed them just as much. As time went on he slowly broke out of his shell and involved himself more and more in the organization. In fact, he ended up dedicating his life to it. He now runs the center and has worked his way off the street. He is nothing short of a personal hero. There are many reasons this is such an inspiring story, most important of which is this man?s self-sacrificial love and the impact it had on so many, including myself. This amazing man had absolutely nothing in life in any material sense, yet he volunteered most of his time to help others in his same situation.
Make no mistake, the great commission is about growing God?s kingdom on earth, but what?s also clear is that we do so through self-sacrifice.
?Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.? Philippians 2:3-4
Today?s church in the United States is quite diverse. Within the framework of a shrinking church body, there have been churches who have had success. I happen to live in Orange County, CA, the home of the MegaChurch. However, as much success as these church bodies have had, they have clearly not made much of a dent in the growth of God?s kingdom here in the United States.
The model of a successful U.S. church has little variation. Forgive me for generalizing, but most of us have been witness to loud music, dynamic sermons, and increased foreign missions budgets. None of these are bad things, but if churches were largely abiding by the prescription for growth that God gives us, the church would grow.
Now these numbers aren’t the tell-all because they don?t include those worshiping privately at home, but if the church exuded self-sacrifice I have no qualms about saying that these numbers would be better because our God is great. Like most non-profits, however, the bulk of church donations go to building and maintenance, and administrative costs. Counter that with this look at the early church.
?And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.? Acts 2:43-47 KJV
God is Love
I start with the basis of love and self sacrifice because God does not have a playbook for politics. Given how Jesus dealt with taxes, I can?t imagine politics is a big priority for the big guy. Today, however, politics seems to permeate every aspect of society. In this way it is clearly being idolized. To get direction from God for how we are to operate in the public square, we need to start with his purpose for us as his children. God is love so everything, I mean everything, must flow from love.