This Saturday is a community clean-up organized by the neighbourhood in which sits our Church building. This year we’re taking part – both by encouraging bodies to help out and with a little funding.
Why? Why is the perennially important question for anything so it’s important to ask it here. Why should a local Church participate (enthusiastically by the way) in a neighbourhood clean-up?
This post is mainly for my own congregation’s benefit to help us focus on why we would expend effort on something like this. Not that we’re cynical or resistant to the idea, by and large, but just to help us be clear. But if you’re a reader from elsewhere, there might some pearls in it for you too.
So why is The King’s Fellowship participating? How about for three reasons:
1) For Us. We’re doing it in order to help us. We need opportunities to serve others and taking part together in something like this is to that end. Many people in the congregation serve wonderfully in their own neighbourhoods and social circles. It should never be suggested that we are not a serving people. But corporately, as a congregation, there has never been a strong history of King’s doing service together. So we need practice at that. This Saturday is an opportunity for that. Participating for one Saturday may not seem like a big deal – it’s not! – but it could be a step toward more ways to corporately serve. Plus, it will be fun! As someone who used to work in West Broadway take it from me; this community knows how to make stuff fun. We’ll take part and we’ll be build community amongst ourselves.
2) For Evangelism. Picking up garbage with our neighbours is evangelism? No, it’s not. It is service. Evangelism is when we speak the words of the Good News to someone and plead, persuade, and appeal to them to repent and believe. Evangelism isn’t service but it can be helped by service. Our Church has owned a building in this neighbourhood for years. People could come to faith through our witness. But they need to know we’re here first. Serving is a way to let our neighbours know that we’re here and that we want to serve them (and serve with them) in Jesus’ name. In addition to being an intrinsic good on its own, serving can be a way of ‘earning the right to be heard’. This, I suspect Christians will learn in the decades ahead, is even more important as suspicion of traditional Christianity rises around us. Picking up garbage this Saturday is a way to get to know our neighbours, be seen helping alongside with their common concerns. No pressure to ‘share the Gospel’. We’re there to serve. But let me just share what a community leader told me once. I told him that “propagating our faith is always a top priority for us”. He smiled and replied: “Hey, we’re all people. We may see the world in different ways, but if people see you taking part, maybe they’ll be more open to your beliefs”. Wise words.
3) As A Stepping Stone To Something More. One of my constant prayers for my congregation is that God would give us one or two unique ways to serve our neighbours. That’s an important prayer because WB is a community which has lots of needs but also lots of people, programs, and organizations (both religious and non) who are already meeting those needs. We don’t want to be redundant and run, for example, a healthy breakfast club or food bank when those things are already being done competently by others. We also don’t want to shirk responsibility either. We are to be a city on a hill after all. It is important to not parachute in with our plans and agendas to help out. We need to come alongside and participate in what is already going on. We need to be servants and act like missionaries where we’ve been planted. We need to not come in wearing our T-shirts but to wear theirs. *Psst, this isn’t just a metaphor – there’s a free t-shirt in it for you!* If my prayer for one or two specific ways to serve is going to be answered, it almost certainly won’t be answered while sitting still. If we take part in something as simple as this clean-up , and keep on for maybe a few years, we will be learning, making connections, becoming comfortable with our neighbours, and they with us. Then, who knows what could come of it? Oh wait, God knows! Let’s participate and be in prayer.