Summit, next week we kick off ServeRDU, our dedicated week of local outreach and service. ServeRDU represents a tangible way that we bless our city as we serve our neighbors because Jesus first served us. While these projects span just a few days, it is our prayer that they prove to be on-ramps toward year-long engagement. (If you haven’t signed up yet, there are still some opportunities available. Check out all of the projects and your campus Prayer Night at serverdu.com.)
In light of that, I wanted to pull a few helpful articles out of the vault that reveal our heart behind local outreach. If you like what you see, click the title for the full article.
10 Plumb Lines for Local Outreach
When we began asking ourselves, as a church, what it meant to bring God’s healing to our city, we didn’t have much of a plan. We’ve learned a lot since then.
The church is God’s demonstration community. We exist to share the good news, and tangibly displaying God’s love is an important part of how we do that. We do this because we are imitating Jesus, who as he preached also healed the sick and fed the hungry as signs of a kingdom that is not of this world. As N.T. Wright puts it, our acts of service and mercy “sketch out with pencil what Jesus will one day paint over in indelible ink.” As the body of Christ, we are helping people see God. They should be able to look at us and glimpse—however faintly—aspects of God’s character.
We demonstrate God’s compassion for every one of his children by treating those who are marginalized as valuable. We demonstrate his perseverance by loving others even when they don’t seem to appreciate or accept it. We demonstrate his grace by occasionally helping even when we know it will be squandered. Our call to imitate or demonstrate God is why we put such an emphasis on proactively going to the homeless or the prisoners wherever they are in our city, rather than waiting for them to wander through our doors. Most people who need a tangible expression of God’s love the most won’t—or can’t—come to us.
Sometimes when God moves in a person’s life, he’s just showing off.
There were many times in the past I would look back at my life and reflect. It always took form in either a eulogy or an obituary—how people would speak about me when I was dead. I often thought of how others would sum up my existence, and it was always sad. For example, “Lorraine was such a smart, beautiful person but could never get out of her own way.” A tale of a girl who could never get it together. A tale of woe, of a child of abandonment and abuse, a lost soul, a beautiful disaster.
When I came to Durham, I was running from myself. I had no expectations. I knew without a doubt I would tornado my way through this town, leaving a destructive path of hurt and pain behind me like have done on more than one occasion.
The seemingly endless cycle of my addiction and its destruction was exhausting. I was a slave to a self-sabotage that went against my innermost being. I knew that I held some value to life; I just needed to fix something inside myself in order to figure it out. Giving up and surrendering to anything, let alone God, was not in my plan. But my plan and God’s plan were not the same by any means, and his plan was better.
We Serve RDU Because Christ First Served Us
(KJ Hill, Local Outreach Pastor)
People are the mission; projects are only a tool.
We want ServeRDU to be a launching point for ongoing relationships, a celebration of what is happening throughout the year and not just a series of work projects. Can you imagine a church of 9,000 people who were living entire lives marked by serving our neighbors? The impact would be immeasurably greater than if those people simply showed up to paint houses for a couple hours.
What if our people were captivated by the beautiful, ridiculous message of the gospel and responded by seeking out relationships with the underserved youth of Raleigh-Durham? What if they mentored our neighbors? What if they partnered with schools by volunteering and praying consistently for them? What if they joined our teams serving prisoners, single moms, orphans, homeless neighbors, or refugees? The world doesn’t know what to do with people like that.
The Bible warns that when we cast off the rule of God, the strong always end up oppressing the weak. As the church, it’s our job to come to the aid of the weak, whoever they may be.
Who are the weak among us? How about the fatherless? In our country, one in three kids is growing up in a single-parent home. And 80 percent of the time, that means no dad. In our own Durham County, there are 20,000 kids growing up without knowing the love of a father. That’s a group big enough to fill the Durham Bulls ballpark—twice.
Or I think of the foster children in our area. Wake County has 716 children in foster care, a number that is growing by the day. Many of them bounce from one house to another, constantly feeling like nobody wants them or loves them. And every year, dozens of them age out of the system, where it’s a near guarantee that they’ll end up on the streets.
Don’t kids like these deserve the love of a parent? Are they not also created in the image of God, like my kids? Like yours?
Or I think of the prisoners in our society. I read a study recently about how one of the primary predictors of recidivism is whether prisoners have visitors while in prison. Unsurprisingly, the more prisoners have healthy relationships with people on the outside, the less likely they are to return to prison. But in this study, 40 percent of prisoners had no one come visit them a single time. Not family. Not friends. Not someone from a local church. Are they not also created in God’s image, regardless of their offenses?