You get what you give

The last Sunday of the summer found me sitting in a sanctuary that felt more like the Royal Albert Hall than a church building. My fingers curled comfortably around my complimentary coffee as I sat listening to a sermon about why I should be involved in the church community.

The pastor passionately promised that Christian community is God’s gift to me; it will provide me with a support group—financially, spiritually and emotionally— and it will give me lasting friends who can keep me accountable and will love me as Christ loves me. Church community will reveal God’s will, teaching me how to be the best part of the body of Christ that I can be. In short, community with Christian believers is the Botox injection to my walk with Christ and my life at large, and it will make me happy and fulfilled.

This should sound familiar, even to a non-Christian. Why? Because this is the marketing strategy of every brand out there. This is a great sales pitch for Christian community, because it caters to what I, the consumer, stand to gain by engaging in Christian community. This is how we are trained to view the church as if it is going to be a flawless fix for all of life’s problems. By approaching Christian community with this attitude of, “what’s in it for me?”, we cheat one another of the true benefits of community. Essentially, we are attending a potluck and acting as if it is a buffet. As a result, everyone goes hungry.

Rather than attend the potluck of Christian community empty-handed, seeking only to consume and not supply, I propose that we carefully and prayerfully prepare dishes to bring to the table.

Romans 12:6- 11 notes that our offering to God and the community will look different depending on who is doing the bringing because God has given us different gifts.

What can you bring to the table? What gifts, talents, cultural/social backgrounds and passions has God knit into the fabric of your being that you can use to season the community? Do you have a passion and talent for music?

Perhaps volunteering with a local church to help lead worship is a way you can give. Are you a great listener? Maybe you could help someone feel seen and known by setting up one-on-one time and asking about their passions. Are you a natural leader or teacher? Do you understand children? Are you a technology genius? Do you love storytelling? The full list of gifts and passions is extensive.

I encourage you to spend some time prayerfully identifying the areas in which you may be gifted, and then try to locate ways you can use that gift. May we be a community that uses the talents God has given us rather than one that buries them like the man in Jesus’ parable (Matthew 25:14-30).

In addition to highlighting the diversity of our gifts, Romans 12:6-11 challenges each member of the body of Christ to serve the Lord and one another out of love— not thinking of ourselves as better than others, or serving to boost our ego, but serving out of real love for God and our brothers and sisters. Essentially, humble pie should be on the menu for all of us seeking to engage in Christian community.

Paradoxically, it is only when we begin to approach community with the attitude of, “what can I give”, that we begin to reap the benefits of communing with our brothers and sisters.

What will you bring to the table at John Brown University, your church home and your local community?