Consider the needs of others

Published 5:17pm Thursday, August 29, 2013

Emmitt was one of the finest Christian men I’ve ever known — a deacon and a Gideon — but I was never able to convince him that our congregation eating and fellowshipping together was a good thing. I’m not sure if he ever set foot in our fellowship hall. He’d say, “We ought to take that money and feed hungry people.”
It was only later that I heard a preacher invent a new adjective when he claimed the Bible was the “eatingest” book in the world since God’s people were always celebrating with food. I sometimes jokingly remark that food is the only sin we Baptists can enjoy since we can’t drink, smoke, play cards or dance.
I’d have used this unique adjective with Emmitt if I’d known it at the time.
But at least Emmitt’s focus was on the larger world outside the four walls of our church.
I heard about a pious church that had a sign on their lawn: “Jesus Only.”
A prankster removed the first three letters one night so the next morning the sign read, “Us Only.” This kind of selfish attitude must never characterize the people of God.
It’s true that proper worship lifts our eyes to a world in need.
This is not to say that there’s no ministry within the church. Of course there is, and all believers are recipients of such ministry. I think of faithful Bible teachers, children’s and youth workers in two Baptist churches who encouraged me in my formative years. I still name the teachers I had and appreciate how they helped me learn to love the Bible. I also benefited from some wonderful Methodist lay leaders since our community Boy Scout troop was sponsored by their church.
And our churches serve their members through grief ministry, counseling, benevolent offerings and in countless other ways. We mustn’t overlook the vital ministry inside the church.
But we remember the famous word of D. L. Moody when he said the world is a sinking ship and the church must save all she can.
In the last few days we’ve seen examples of a cruel humanity. An Australian student was murdered by teen-agers for no other reason than they were bored. And an elderly World War II vet was savagely killed for no apparent reason. Our culture is fueled by violent video games and dehumanizing music. The results are heartbreaking.
In contrast the army of God’s people goes out under the banner of the cross to help and heal in the name of Jesus.
The church encourages Christians every week to take sincere interest in others and to make their needs primary. “Us only” is an inadequate model for today’s church.

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