Christian Community Service

Should a Christian seek out opportunities for community service, apart from family and church venues and apart from job responsibilities? Every Christian should seek out opportunities for service. It is the Christian thing to do (Mark 10:44-45). But what service and in what venues? Opportunities to serve blanket the world as trees in a jungle. What should you do?

When you choose how to serve others, follow a simple flow of biblical priorities. Before you engage in the next level of service, be sure that you are succeeding at the prior level.

Priorities of Christian Service

Priorities of Christian Service

Immediate Family

But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. (1 Timothy 5:8)

I grew up in the home of a pastor. Missionaries frequently visited our home as they traveled for furlough or deputation. On one occasion, my parents sensed the need to spend separate time with a visiting missionary couple. My father drove around town with the husband, while my mother stayed at home with the wife. She told my mother that she struggled to serve the Lord because her husband neglected the needs of their home and family. Her husband was apparently a very giving person. In fact, on one occasion he gave away the family furniture on a whim to help another family, without consulting his own family or considering the needs of his own home! You will not be surprised if I tell you the heartbreaking news that this family left missions work and eventually divorced.

You can attempt many great acts of service for God. But if you neglect the needs of your immediate family, your testimony is no better than a person who rejects God.

You can attempt many great acts of service for God. But if you neglect the needs of your immediate family, your testimony is no better than a person who rejects God. When Paul says, “especially those of your own house,” he is referring to people who depend on you. These include:

  • Your wife
  • Children who are your dependents
  • Child support (for those with broken homes)
  • Employees, those who depend on you for their primary income

Extended Family

But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. (1 Timothy 5:8)

As you care for those under your roof and those who depend on you for livelihood, you should also provide appropriate care for other close relatives as needed, even if they are not direct dependents. American society easily overlooks this part of family service. But as a pastor in the Queens borough of New York City, serving church members from many countries and backgrounds, I have learned that people from many cultures embrace this responsibility. Whether parents or other close extended family live near or far, many regularly set aside part of their income to provide necessary financial aid for them. And when possible, they share housing accommodations. This is hospitality at its finest.

When possible, they share housing accommodations. This is hospitality at its finest.

I am thankful for parents-in-law who moved halfway across the United States on short notice to care for their mother. And I’m thankful for parents who did whatever was necessary to ensure proper care for their parents as they grew old. As a Christian, you should do what is right in providing necessary service to your parents, and other extended but close family. Jesus Himself served His mother in this way (John 19:27).

Church Family

As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)

As you meet the needs of your own family, especially those who depend on you, you should seek out opportunities to serve members of your church family as well. While you should be ready to serve all people, Paul makes it very clear that you should give attention first to the people of your church family (“the household of faith”), those who are committed participants of your congregation with a clear testimony of faith in Christ and obedience to Him. These include:

  • Pastors
  • Widows
  • Elderly and shut-ins
  • Those with handicaps or limitations
  • New believers
  • Children
  • Believers facing challenges
  • Itinerant preachers, teachers and missionaries

The service you provide to one another in a church congregation will include financial help, but extends even further to other forms of service as well.

  • Teaching
  • Friendship
  • Prayer
  • Hospitality
  • Skilled labor
  • Employment opportunities
  • Food
  • Transportation

Before you commit to acts of service in your community at large, give serious attention to your service involvement within your own church congregation.

Before you commit to acts of service in your community at large, give serious attention to your service involvement within your own church congregation, with whom you share a mutual obligation, a supernatural bond and a partnership that lasts for eternity (Romans 14:19, 1 Thessalonians 5:11). Opportunities for service to your church abound. If you don’t see anything, speak with the church pastor(s) or deacon(s) for guidance.

Community at Large

As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)

Meeting needs in society at large is a wholesome step to take. Food pantries, clothing drives, block watches, committee positions, neighborhood cleanup, emergency response, political action and many other opportunities present themselves. Prayerfully evaluate what ways, if any, would be appropriate for you to serve. These are ways to “do good to all men.” Community involvement provides an opportunity for you to be “salt and light” in a decaying, dark world (Matthew 5:13-16).

Having said this, consider two important cautions:

  1. Before you engage in extracurricular service to your community at large, honestly evaluate whether you are overlooking, neglecting or minimizing opportunities to serve your family and your church.
  2. Plan to evangelize, to present the gospel of Jesus Christ in words to those whom you serve in the community. It would be unwise to present the gospel message the first time or every time you serve an unconverted person (Matthew 10:16). But you should do good in order to be a mouthpiece for the gospel. Refuse to be obnoxious, but commit to being bold. After all, Jesus has commissioned you not only to go out into the world, but to preach the gospel to the people you encounter there (Mark 16:15). And Jesus modeled this, too. Whenever He served people in society at large, He accompanied His good works with good words, with teaching. And you should, too. It’s the best good thing you can do. After all, the gospel is not just good news. It is the good news that every person in the community at large needs!
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