Caleb Roe has a great post about how serving actually saved a life!
On Tuesday Caleb, Steve, Marcie, Jackie, and I picked up about 150 meals from a a local restaurant. We took them around the city giving them away. This restaurant has given us meals twice a day for the past three days. They are preparing for their grand opening, and their cooks are practicing. If for no other reason, you should eat there because they are willing to give their food to us to give it away to hurting people rather than throw it out! Oh, and the food is great too.
As Caleb and Steve point out, serving has the potential to change a life right in front of you. But on a more regular basis, serving changes you! The more I serve, the more I sense God's presence, see His work being done, and experience growth in His grace.
I have found the following to be true of serving:
1. Serving reminds us to move outward. God wants to grow us and change us, but He doesn't want us focused only on ourselves. When we seek after OUR salvation and try to figure out how WE are going to get into heaven we are asking some very selfish questions. But when we focus outward (love God and love neighbor) we actually find what we are looking for. So many churches (and Christians?) have failed because they have failed to look outward and serve others.
2. Serving expands the Kingdom of God. God's desire is to expand the reach of His Kingdom on earth. What does that mean? It means that God wants to bring meaning, purpose, hope, and healing to people. There are so many people who are broken and hurting, and God wants them to know that He loves them...we are the ones commissioned to tell them.
3. Serving raises the spiritual climate of the community. The first church I planted in Pleasant Hill was unique to that community...we serve without expectation of return. Our major outreach was called Party in the Park and drew in more than 600 people from the community (not bad for a church of 30). By the end of my time there, most of the other churches in town were offering something very similar to Party in the Park. Selfishly, I hated the competition, but after the conviction of my selfishness was revealed I realize it was an expansion of the Kingdom. I am not called to just build my church to expand the reach of God's Kingdom.
4. Serving changes the way people view God and His church. For the most part, the Church has a horrible reputation with those in our world. It is one thing for people to reject the message of Christ, but a completely different thing to reject the message because of the abuses and the air of superiority often portrayed by the church. For too long people have rejected the church not because of the message of Jesus, but because of the message we have sent by being hypocritical, stingy, unloving, and failing to be humble in our mistakes. By giving ourselves away, with no expectation of getting something in return, changes the way people view us.
5. Serving is a necessary spiritual discipline. When people think of growing spiritually, they often think of increasing their time of prayer, Scripture reading, and church attendance. Notice how ME centered all the traditional spiritual discipline are? A failure to serve others is really a failure to grow. I don't believe a person can grow spiritually without serving others and giving themselves away.
6. Serving increases your generosity. Serving is a practical expression of our love for neighbor. Serving also teaches us how to live open-handed. We learn that nothing is ours, but is given to us by our heavenly Father. And as we give away what we have received, we find there actually is more joy in giving than receiving (though I do like receiving and my birthday is coming up in a few months-just so you are prepared).