We've been given the challenge at my church this summer to spend our time trying to find ways to be Jesus and to share the love of Jesus with the people in our lives. I'm excited to see and hear how the Spirit leads the people in my community to do this. But I want to offer one additional suggestion...
One of the best ways to build relationships with people is to engage in acts of service with them. And there are so many people out there who don't follow Jesus but who still have values of service and giving back to the community.
There are some great things that happen when we love and extend grace and service to those around us. But sometimes this doesn't actually help us to get to know them better. In fact, it can put us in a position of power in these relationships and make it difficult to take the next step in sharing our faith when the time is appropriate.
But when we ask for help and we invite people to come alongside us in doing the great works of reconciliation and restoration, we are actually inviting them to experience God with us. When we are chasing after the values of God and asking him to work through us, his Spirit is with us in powerful ways. Whenever the followers of Jesus are seeking the restoration and reconciliation of the broken places in the world, God is there. And it is a powerful thing to invite people into the presence of God.
Inviting someone along in your acts of service has some other benefits. First, it shows them that your faith actually affects your life, particularly if you have a natural opportunity to share with them why you're doing this at all. Second, it demonstrates that for you, faith is causing positive habits and activities to grow in your life. Many of the barriers people have to faith come from seeing religious people acting in ways that hurt others. When you are serving alongside someone, they can experience the benefit that your faith has in your life, and can also see how it's bringing something positive to the world. Finally, you'll have a lot more time for meaningful conversation. When you're doing something meaningful with someone, it's easier to have deeper and more meaningful conversations with them than it is when you're meeting casually for coffee or something--at least that's the way it's been in my own life.
So my challenge for this week is really a challenge for the whole summer--during your summer of service, I'd challenge you to invite one person along to do at least one act of service with you. And I'll be praying that you and your friends meet God powerfully through serving.