In two of my previous posts, I talked about the danger of being busy with church programs and activities, and the difficulty that we often face when moving away from these types of programs. (See my posts “Numbing our souls with church activities” and “Growing past church programs and activities is not easy.”)
In church programs and activities, the program or activity is the unifying force. Without the particular class or project, the people involved would probably not work together. And, when the class or project is complete, the people who were involved often don’t interact with each other much anymore. (Granted, people who have relationships with one another can be involved in programs and activities together. But, these relationships are generally not built through the classes or projects.)
However, this does not mean that we should not serve, teach, disciple, and evangelize together. In fact, I believe this is a very important part of our life together as the church. As we share life together (fellowship) in Christ, the Spirit will (super)naturally lead us to people who need help. These people may be strangers, but they will often be acquaintances or friends of people who are part of our group. Thus, we serve through our relationships with Christ and one another toward ourselves (in teaching, discipling, serving, etc.) and others (in evangelizing, serving, etc.).
The difference between serving through church programs and serving through relationships may be undetectable to those outside the groups. In either case, the person being served only knows that a group of people seeks to help and love them, hopefully in the name of Jesus Christ. (Of course, the difference would be obvious to someone who is part of the group.)
However, the difference is very important to the people who are actually working together to serve, teach, evangelize, etc. Why? Because maturity in Christ comes through our mutual fellowship with one another – that is our relationships with Jesus Christ and with one another. We do not grow in maturity simply because we do certain activities together or at the same time.
And, even more, maturity is to be a continuing and consistent process. Groups of Christians that serve through their relationships will continue to relate to one another after that particular act of service is complete. In this way, we get to know one another – our strengths and weaknesses – and are able to continually help one another through various opportunities to serve together.
This ongoing aspect of these relational groups (relating to Christ and to one another) is extremely important. We grow in maturity in Jesus Christ as we are interconnected with one another, not merely when we do thing together. It takes time and consistency for this type of interconnection and interrelation.
In relational service, the particular act of service is not as important as the people involved – either the people serving or the people being served. The group will gladly add to, modify, or stop certain acts of service for the benefit of the people. Again, this is different than most church programs or activities, which are usually continued even if they are no longer effective.
So, while most of us may be more familiar and more comfortable serving, teaching, evangelizing, discipling, etc. through certain church programs and activities, it is not only possible but preferably to serve together through relationships.