BY NICK HARDT
Here at Stillwater Evangelical Free Church we have a desire to increase our impact on the community around us. We are currently reshaping how we serve the St. Croix Valley and the neighborhoods around us. I’m excited to tell you of some of these activities in future columns, but before the walls are built, a solid foundation must be established.
Service to our neighbors, seeking justice for the oppressed and meeting the physical needs of the less fortunate are fundamental marks of a follower of Jesus Christ. These are things the church must take seriously by investing time, money and effort.
That said, the truth is most types of community service and humanitarian aid can and will be done by people with no faith background at all. Refugees are cared for, the hungry are fed, wells are dug and the St. Croix river is cleaned by disciples of Christ, as well as people of differing beliefs and some with none at all.
On one hand, the desire in people to serve and meet physical needs of others regardless of one’s faith background gives testament to the image of God present in each person, but it also speaks to the most important role of the Christian church — meeting the spiritual needs of a community. In Romans 10, the apostle Paul highlights this by saying:
“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (ESV)
Here the apostle reminds us that the primary job of the church, and an essential responsibility of any Christian, is to boldly proclaim the excellencies of Jesus Christ, to beautifully present the good news of salvation through faith in Christ. In its own way, it reminds us that there will always be an Angelina Jolie to be humanitarian of the year, there will always be a Bill Gates Foundation to give millions to meet the physical needs of others (I make no claim to know where either are spiritually). Scripture tells us there will always be people willing to serve others, but it is only those who know and cherish Christ who will testify to his name.
Many can give and serve, but only Christians can proclaim a truth that will last into eternity. What an excellent reminder for Stillwater E-Free, as well as any church looking to increase its service and impact in the community. Our churches should be on the leading edge of meeting the physical needs of others; our churches should be an example in the community for service and justice; but we must always prioritize a community’s spiritual need above that of the temporal. Anyone can serve, but only the believer in Christ can share the good news of the gospel. There are no feet more beautiful than the feet that proclaim the truth of eternal life in Christ Jesus.
Nick Hardt is pastor of Stillwater Evangelical Free Church.