I grew up in a small church. Our youth ministry was so small, sometimes it seemed like the core group was comprised of only my older brother and myself. I remember our service projects in the youth ministry – we adopted a highway. I promise you, I hated that service project with a true hatred. Not an exaggerated hatred, or strong dislike. It was a for real hate. But hey, we got pizza at the end, so…
I’m sure we all learned something out of that service project, and at least our church was doing something to be involved in serving our community. However, I can’t help but reflect on the overall church and how it participates in service to others. When I hear other followers of Jesus reflect on service projects or trips, it strikes me as odd that the words “service project” have become synonymous with mission.
Trip, Project, or Mission?
Now, before you throw stones at me and tell me that serving others is mission, I don’t disagree with you. Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, and we see the early church organize to feed people. I get it. Service trips and projects have their place; we are called to serve others humbly. I believe service is an ASPECT of mission. Serving others often wins an audience with others and shows the love of Christ in humility. Mission is about expanding the family of God; taking part in the ministry of reconciliation. The problem comes in when we mistake service for mission in and of itself. It isn’t. Christians often settle for mission or service trips when in reality, we need lives of mission.
Implications for Every Believer
Service AND mission is what every believer is called to. Every believer finds themselves exactly where they are, and that is exactly where God wants to use you. God wants to use you where you are in your workplace, your school, your family, your local coffee shop, bar, restaurant, or wherever you frequent. Mission is you being the ambassador of Christ, representing him legally in the world. No one is exempt from mission, but everyone will approach it differently because of their unique giftings and personalities.
Implications for Ministry Leaders
Service may be an on-road, but mission is the goal. Let’s equip those we lead to be missionaries. Our understanding of missionaries has to be redeemed from relegation to places only outside our immediate context. We’ve viewed missionaries as those that get a call (for some reason, the one being called has to be reluctant because that makes you more spiritual) to some far of place to do the work of God to people of a different language. Ministry leaders need to help those they lead understand that missionaries are simply followers of Christ who know their purpose to the world around them in need of reconciliation with the Father. Leaders need to help equip those they lead to understand and walk in the reality that where they go, so does Jesus.
Christ in me means that wherever I go, there too is the kingdom of God. I will bless others, I will serve others (even if they don’t realize it), but I know that service projects and trips only matter if they help live out a life of mission. That’s every believer’s role; we live lives of mission. Let’s live for more than checking a monthly trip to the soup kitchen off the list – let’s be a people who carry the mission of Christ everywhere they go.
Dan Koller is the youth pastor at Gun Lake Community Church. Dan enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife (who edits all his content and makes him sound smarter than he actually is) and his two amazing sons. He has a heart for small town ministry and has a passion to help other youth pastors succeed. Dan is also working with Rebuild North America; an organization dedicated to empowering and resourcing children’s, youth, and young adult leaders through coaching, training, and content.
You can read more from Dan at HTTPS://THESMALLTOWNYOUTHPASTOR.WORDPRESS.COM.
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