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New Testament Christianity: Chapter 10 - Christian Service

By J.B. Phillips


      The early vigorous Church was essentially a work ing, serving, and forwardlooking Church. Partly because of a sensitivity to the Spirit's direction and partly because of the rising tide of persecution, the Young Church did not have much chance of becoming selfsatisfied and complacent. It expanded and spread into all sorts of unlikely places, armed only with the Good News of the love and power of the Spirit. Throughout the New Testament letters we can see how insistent are Paul and the others that the love of God which has sprung up in men's hearts at the touch of Christ must be expressed in outward conduct towards a pagan and frequently hostile world. The early Chris tians were pioneers of a new way of life, and many of them plainly regarded themselves as expendable for the cause of the Kingdom. The time had not yet come for any Church to become inwardlooking, prosperous, or selfsatisfied. Sometimes nowadays one gets the impression that the Christian Churches have largely ceased to look outward. It is almost as though Christians exist in a closed circle of fellowship, with all their members facing inwards; while behind their backs there are millions who long, albeit unconsciously, for the Gospel, and for the point and purpose in life that only the Gospel can bring. If the Churches are to recover the vast power and influence of the Church of New Testament times, there must be a fundamental change of attitude in many Churches, which means of course a fundamental change in the attitude of the Churches' members. We must recover our sense of vocation, our sense that we are not, as I said above, an organisation of people who have a common interest in religion, but that we are the local representa tives of the God Whom we serve and of the Heaven to which we belong.

      We may be full of joy, but we are not here for our own amusement. We are here to be used as instruments in God's Purpose. It is a fine thing to know that we are "right with God", "converted", "born again", and all the rest of it; but after a while such experiences become stale and unsatisfying unless we are passing the Good News on to others, positively assisting the work of the Church, or definitely bringing to bear upon actual human situations the pattern of Christian living. This means, in effect, that each individual Christian must ask himself: "Am I myself outwardlooking in my Chris tian experience, or am I content to remain in a safe 'Christian rut'." The recovery of the Church's power rests ultimately upon the individual Christian's answer to such a question.

      Coming down to actual practice, the Christian has to ask himself what he can do to express outwardly and effectively his inward spiritual certainty. Obviously his first duty is to live a Christian life in his home and in his place of work. This is where his witness is most effective and frequently most difficult, but busyness in Church affairs is no substitute whatever for exhibiting Christian graces in the home or being known as a Christian in our place of work. But, assuming that we have seriously considered our ordinary Christian life and witness, we ought also, as members of the Church, to think seriously of what our contribution should be in terms of time, per sonality, and talent to the life of the Church to which we belong. I have already referred to the horrifying paucity of leaders in most of our Churches, of men and women who will take responsibility and work at a job for the love of Christ and His Church. The influence of the Christian fellowship upon children, upon adolescents, upon the community in which the Church's life is set, would be vastly enhanced if even half the existing Church members were to give a single hour of dedicated service every week to their Church. Of course to do such thing even at the one hourperweek rate is costly, and hundred different excuses crowd readily into the mind. But if the Church is to revive and become once more ablaze with the truth of God and full of the warmth of His love, its members must be prepared to meet the cost and make the sacrifice. The byproduct will be, of course, the maintenance of a high level in the spiritual life of the individual members. For the real danger to professing Christians lies not in the more glaring and grosser temptations and sins, but in a slow deterioration of vision, a slow death to daring, courage, and the willing ness to adventure.

      I cannot refrain from bringing this to a personal point. Our gifts vary enormously; we cannot all be evangelists, pastors, or teachers. We cannot all be leaders or bear great responsibility; but there is certain to be something, some worthwhile piece of service, which only you the reader can do. It may be exciting, it may be humdrum, it may be participating in a new venture, or it may be a mere routine. The apparent importance of it does not really matter; what is of real consequence both to your Church and to your own soul is whether you are willing to give yourself sacrificially.

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See Also:
   Chapter 1 - Explanation
   Chapter 2 - The Angels' Point of View
   Chapter 3 - God Makes News
   Chapter 4 - The Faith-faculty
   Chapter 5 - Ground for Hope
   Chapter 6 - Love
   Chapter 7 - The Love-deficiency
   Chapter 8 - Peace
   Chapter 9 - Christian Maintenance
   Chapter 10 - Christian Service
   Chapter 11 - Some Conclusions

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