As believers take steps to focus on meeting needs beyond the walls of the church, it’s important to consider how those being served (as well as those who may observe your acts of service) will interpret your actions. It’s possible that your best intentions and efforts to serve may be misunderstood. Avoid drawing attention to yourselves or your church or ministry group as you seek to meet needs. Do they see you and your church, or do they see Jesus and the hope of the gospel?
I regret the time we served a Thanksgiving meal to families at the local community center and I called up the newspaper to make sure that they sent a photographer and reporter to cover the story. I was so thrilled that we were featured on the front page of the local paper on Thanksgiving Day. Even though our church members genuinely served the families in the community who may not have enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal otherwise, I was motivated by the publicity this could bring our church. Now, I am wondering how non-Christians actually viewed our community service. Did they see the values and hope of the kingdom, or did they see us as self-serving to get attention for group?
Many groups get T-shirts for group members to wear as they serve together. There’s nothing wrong with T-shirts and they can often help to build team unity and identify who is involved. However, what is being communicated by your T-shirts to those you are serving? Or what is communicated to those observing? [If it is “look at us” – don’t do it.]
Realize that all acts of service to any group of people (addressing social, economic or physical needs) carry a message that must be understood and interpreted through an outsider’s point of view.
Ask: Are we willing to partner together with others to bring about change and not be concerned with who gets the credit? Are we communicating the values and hope of the kingdom?