We should not be surprised that God would desire to show up when people honor Him. It should be expected that God would be where His name is lifted and people are walking in step with Him. So why is it so hard to notice Him in daily interactions? I believe it can be as simple as how we view serving. We pray for opportunities to love people in Jesus’ name and then ignore the people right in front of us. We go on trips to foreign countries and give time all the while ignoring the communities we live in and then we wonder why God is not at work around us.
While in St. Louis, we had the opportunity to spend time in the local community in an effort to renew it. There were groups serving in dangerous areas of the city in the name of Jesus because that is what He has called us to do. Our group went to the historic Gustave Koerner House in Belleville, IL, which is not a dangerous spot, but still a community with a need for volunteers. By comparison to some others, our service project was not too scary or even all that difficult. In fact, we felt like we could have accomplished a lot more. But, is that the goal?
There is something so special about getting into a community in Jesus’ name. In fact, Jesus says that when two or three gather in His name, there He is in the midst. That is the beauty of this. While we pull weeds, peel wallpaper, move bricks or pick up trash, Jesus Christ is among us. We go with Him and people notice.
I was sanding a street sign in front of a little pub in this town when two kids suddenly came out of the alley. They were followed by their mother who literally stopped in her tracks and looked up and down the street. She was taking it all in. After a few minutes she asked me what we were doing. I explained that we were here for a conference with like 7,000 teenagers and we wanted to help make a difference in local communities around St. Louis. She was immediately surprised and grateful. She had just moved to town and had some real concerns about some of the run down buildings we were working on. Her comment to me was, “thank you for doing this; it is really needed.”
Of course this makes us feel great. We made a real difference in that community, a positive thing. But still I walk away with a sense of longing to see these same things happen in my own community. Sure we live in a different culture where we are, but there are needs all around us. What is it about local service projects that make people ignore them all while jumping into projects in other communities? Why is it that when we put service projects together here only a few kids show up to help? Could it be that we forgot how to serve because we just don’t serve often enough?
I believe there is a significant take-away for us in this. All of us has the opportunity each day to serve someone in the name of Jesus. It might not be landscaping or even anything large, but there are people everyday who need someone to notice them and serve them. I believe this is the heart of the Gospel and would make a serious impact on our world if we all got involved. So, here is my challenge to all of us: Find one person to serve today and watch how God blesses that. I know God will show up in that.