…To reach people we must appreciate and adapt to their culture, but we must also challenge and confront it. This is based on the biblical teaching that all cultures have God’s grace and natural revelation in them, yet they are also in rebellious idolatry. If we overadapt to a culture, we have accepted the culture’s idols. If, however, we underadapt to a culture, we may have turned our own culture into an idol, an absolute. If we overadapt to a culture, we aren’t able to change people because we are not calling them to change. If we underadapt to a culture, no one will be changed because no one will listen to us; we will be confusing, offensive, or simply unpersuasive. To the degree a ministry is overadapted or underadapted to a culture; it loses life-changing power.
- Tim Keller
If you and your church were to disappear off the face of the earth tomorrow, would anyone in the community around you notice you were gone? And if the community did even notice would they say ‘we are really glad they are gone’, or ‘we are really going to miss them’?
What, then, is service? Serving is putting the needs of others ahead of our own, or putting the needs of the community ahead of our individual needs. And the Bible says there are several reasons to do this. The first benefit is self-knowledge. Don’t think you know your real gifts and capacities until you do a lot of humble serving in many different capacities around the church. Only as you do that will you come to understand your own aptitudes.
The second benefit is community. When you approach the church as a consumer (that is, only to get your needs met), you are in a solitary mode of being, but when you reject the consumer mindset, serving will draw you out of yourself and into relationships.
The third benefit is the fulfillment and joy of seeing others touched through you, or seeing something great happen through the part you play in the body of Christ. Paradoxically, if you serve primarily for the benefits to yourself, then it isn’t really serving, and you won’t receive the benefits. The only workable dynamic for every-member ministry is Mark 10:45. Because Jesus served you in such a radical way, you have a joyful need to serve. It’s a form of praise that doesn’t fully enjoy what it admires until it expresses itself in service.
- Tim Keller
As great as it is, God did not simply send us the Bible, a message through the communication medium of writing. If that was all he could do for us, salvation would ultimately be in our hands —it would have been up to us to follow his instructions. But instead, God also came himself, in the flesh, to be fully present to us in Jesus Christ. It is only through his being fully present with us that we could be saved by grace.
In the same way, we must learn to be fully present in community with our neighbors and with our Christian brothers and sisters. It is not enough to simply show up at a church service where you live physically, but then try to maintain all your closest relationships with friends and family members who live far away. God made us embodied beings—the body (though it is weakened by sin) is a great good. God was so positive about bodies that he himself assumed a body in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. If we are going to give and receive grace from each other, we have to get it the way God gave it to us. We have to be involved in accountable friendships and deep relationships with other people where we live.
- Tim Keller
I realize that so many people’s main problem with Christianity has far more to do with the church than with Jesus. They don’t want to be told that to become a Christian and live a Christian life they need to find a church they can thrive in. They’ve had too many bad experiences with churches. I fully understand. I will grant that, on the whole, churchgoers may be weaker psychologically and morally than non-churchgoers. That should be no more surprising than the fact that people sitting in a doctor’s office are on the whole sicker than those who are not there. Churches rightly draw a higher proportion of needy people. They also have a great number of people whose lives have been completely turned around and filled by the joy of Christ.
- Tim Keller