On Sunday afternoon, youth from our church gathered together for the 87th (that joke NEVER gets old-at least to me) annual Teays Valley Rake-a-Thon. We had previously solicited any folks interested to sign up or to let us know of needs in our community. Some folks took us up on the offer and we actually had a few ladies outside the church, as well as several folks from our congregation.
When I gathered the yutes together, I explained that what we were doing that day was actually just as “spiritual” as having a bible study. We gathered together to do this in order to apply what the bible actually says. I quoted them James 1:27 where “true religion” involves such things as this. I told them we would be visiting widows, or folks in distress, though we might not be seeing any orphans.
The Lord blessed with us absolutely gorgeous weather, and a nice crowd to where we could actually split up into 5 teams. But perhaps even better were the attitudes before and after. Some youth were actually posting on facebook that they were looking forward to it. Crazy.
After we got back and looked at before/after pics to determine the winner, good feedback soon trickled in. One lady, tickled pink someone would come rake her yard, was blown away by the youth response: “thanks for letting us rake your yard!”
Another lady currently experienced a very serious traumatic event and was blown away that people she didn’t know would show such love. Jesus was in this for sure.
Below I’ve listed some reasons why I think these things are so important
1.) Unless you’re a Methodist church, your church may not be as good at mercy as you think. That’s a caricature of course. But many churches are heading in what I consider the right direction. Our church formed a women’s ministry called “Kindness in Action.” It’s just some ladies showing kindness and mercy to those in and outside the church. How cool is that?
2.) You learn and teach not simply by “classroom” type study, but by actually doing. We want to teach our youth and families that God is honored with such activity by actually doing those things. As Presbyterians, I think we undervalue the role of “doing” in our teaching. Doing does teach. When you regularly choose to skip church because of sports or sleep or busyness or activities, you ARE teaching something. Equally important in Christian Education is this “doing” component. Even more, Tim Keller points out that as we serve our communities with our “hands,” we can really “work the gospel” deeper into our “hearts.” As we serve those in need, we begin to grasp the gospel even more.
3.) Regular religious instruction in this area has to start early. Our aim is not simply to keep the kids off the streets but to prepare them to leave the home. The goal in regularly doing things like this is to make service a regular part of their Christian lives from here on out. I can remember how a young Methodist girl involved with our campus ministry at Furman and help us better apply the gospel with our “hands” from the very get-go. As a freshmen she organized a service event for all. Connar and Jude, our 3 and 4 year old workers will only know (ideally) a Christian faith that seeks the good of others, not just a personal experience with God detached from community.
4.) When one’s Christian life actually makes a difference in the lives of others, he/she will becomes less burdened with the unscriptural mantra which destroys marriages, friendships, and other commitments: “God ultimately wants me to be happy.” Somehow, the whole, “Love God and Love others thing seems to get replaced with a God who promotes love of self and personal fulfillment. Somehow in this new Oprah-esque paradigm, God actually excuses sin because he simply wants us to be happy. Yet the ironic thing is that if we enter into suffering and don’t center our lives around self-fulfillment, you’ll find more joy. Most don’t get past the suffering part because God exists to make them happy and thus forfeit real joy.
5.) Community makes things more fun. I don’t have a scripture reference for this; but I don’t need one. We know this is true. Community can make a mundane job like raking leaves for others quite fun and fulfilling. Do the same thing in your yard, by yourself, well, not so much fun. Particularly when they are 100% your neighbor’s leaves…..