Cap's Corner: Do we go to church to serve or be served?

by Cap McIlnay

After last week’s article about Consumerism Christianity, I had some people ask me, “Then why do we go to church?” It is a legitimate question, and simply saying “To praise and worship God” is just not enough. Last week I preached about the main reasons we go to church. Here's a summary of that sermon.

Yes, we go to praise and worship God, but we also go to serve. There are two aspects of serving in the Body of Christ. One aspect is to serve inwardly: to serve for the church, the Body of Christ. Jesus served his disciples, and a church could not last long if we did not have those that served in all the different capacities it takes to keep a church open. These are all the people who serve as Sunday school teachers, custodians, committee members, and even those who mow the lawn.

The second way we serve is for all those that are not part of the Body of Christ. Jesus did not just serve his disciples, but all of humanity. These are all the outreach programs where the church gets to act as the hands and feet of Christ within the community that church is set in.

Every once and a while, the churches of a community gets to be the hands and feet of Jesus together, and that is exactly what happened this past week out at the county fairgrounds. Some people would say this was an organic outreach in that no one person or church did this, but it just grew organically out of the need for this community. A better way of saying this: “It was a miracle, an act of God.”

Personally, I love these moments, these outreach ecumenical (the whole of a body of churches) ministries. This is one of the reasons why I love the community Easter egg hunts so much. But this past week was so much more powerful and impactful because of the acute needs of our community.
This past week, churches, pastors, denominations (or lack thereof) came together in a beautiful moment expressing the love of God. The love of God blurred the lines between our differences and brought us all together. This was the best way to praise, worship, and serve God that I have ever seen in our community – both inwardly and outwardly. The only thing that mattered was that human need met the love of God in harmony.

We have all experienced those beautiful moments in church, listening to a hymn or a contemporary song, and we feel the presence of God with us. This fills our spiritual cup emotionally, but it is often short-lived. When we serve others, our spiritual cups get filled in a more real, substantive way. It stays with us longer, and it is much more reliable than those brief moments in church.

This is why it is so important to go to church as a Christian. The church is the Body of Christ, and as such, it offers the Christian more opportunities to serve our community. As a reward for this work, God fills our cup.

On Sunday, I was still so emotional about all of us coming together at the fairgrounds that just simply bringing it up brought tears to my eyes. Not only does the church offer these opportunities to serve, but it does so collectively. It did not matter if you were able to donate or help a little or a lot; what mattered was that, collectively, each of us brought our little bit and put all the pieces together to make something bigger than any of us could have done alone.

This brings up another matter. Where you go to church is important as well. As a pastor, I am very much delighted that you are going to church at all. However, the church you go to serves the community it is in. For the most part, this is a true statement.

I know that there are several people who go to churches in other towns. Again, I am glad they are going to church. However, they need to realize that that church in the other town is focused on clothing, feeding, providing shelter for, and serving that community – not the community you live in.

Now, I am not asking you to stop going to that church and find one here locally that supports this community, but maybe God has you going to that church to help them create opportunities to serve in your community. We all know that Kay County is a very poor county, and Blackwell has many challenges that give rise to many opportunities for ministries. Maybe the church you go to can team up with a local church here to help serve your hometown as well as their own. A great example of this: The other day, our church received a check from the United Methodist Church of Nardin to help us with local disaster relief.

Let's use the words of John F. Kennedy and modify them: “Ask not what your church can do for you; ask what you can do for your church.” One of the greatest challenges of being a Christian is putting the needs and desires of others over our own. This is true for the individual as well as the church.

I will leave you with this question: “Why do you go to church? To be served or to serve?”