Monday, January 24, 2011

Zoolander School of Service Training - Trend #4

Serving others is great! And should be encouraged!! Yes! Finally a positive trend to discuss!

So Do Something. Do Good Stuff. Do Anything. 


Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller character in the 2001 movie by the same name) takes a jab at the popular rush to Just Do Something. The life-changing realization of this 'ridiculously good-looking male model' causes him to start "The Derek Zoolander Center For Children Who Can't Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too" where "we teach you that there's more to life than being really, really ridiculously good-looking."

So Ben/Zoolander puts in the dig and we keep rushing out to pose for the camera while we are doing something good.

Are we a society of poser servants?
While serving others may be better than a hoarding greedy 'Me-first' attitude, I wonder if the inspiration and motivation to serve is as awesome as we all think. 

  • Could it be that people serve because it is popular?
  • Could the appearance be more important that actually helping someone? 
  • Could our posing for pictures be the motivation more than the one we serve?

I'm not sure. But Barna comments on the fourth mega-trend in current religion and Christianity:
Largely driven by the passion and energy of young adults, Christians are more open to and more involved in community service activities than has been true in the recent past. While we remain more self-indulgent than self-sacrificing, the expanded focus on justice and service has struck a chord with many. However, despite the increased emphasis, churches run the risk of watching congregants’ engagement wane unless they embrace a strong spiritual basis for such service. Simply doing good works because it's the socially esteemed choice of the moment will not produce much staying power.
To facilitate service as a long-term way of living and to provide people with the intrinsic joy of blessing others, churches have a window of opportunity to support such action with biblical perspective. And the more that churches and believers can be recognized as people doing good deeds out of genuine love and compassion, the more appealing the Christian life will be to those who are on the sidelines watching. Showing that community action as a viable alternative to government programs is another means of introducing the value of the Christian faith in society.
I'd be stupid to assume I know all that Barna thinks about this trend toward serving but it seems he thinks the church needs to jump on the bandwagon while it is trendy to serve. I have no problem with serving. We serve at Crosspoint/Encuentro. I am questioning our hearts behind the actions.

Serve as Jesus Served is Different
Jesus did not call His followers to serve and make a big deal about it. Scripture says if you bring attention to your service then you have your reward in full. So should be take lots of photos and promote our serving?

Jesus called His followers to self-sacrifice. Actually he said 'take up your cross and follow me' and he didn't mean take up your cross jewelry. He meant join me in humiliation, accomodation, crossing barriers of race, class and ability and join me in self-sacrificial, even death.

Is that what the rush to serve is all about? Or is Ben Stiller's Zoolander pointed social commentary.

(More) Biblical Service
We do not have it all figured out here. We don't. But we are aiming toward biblical service to the poor, seeking reconciliation and justice and making a practical difference.

The book that is leading our thinking is called When Helping Hurts: How to Allievate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor... And Yourself. This is a tremendous resource and introduction into the problems and solutions of our modern rush to serve the poor. Read it and get into the training.

The way it has impacted us is that we don't start with our need to do something. 

We start with God's view of the poor, then develop relationship with real God's-image-bearing people who may need our help, encourage them to make changes based on their assets (not our view of what they need), then stay in long-term relationship learning together. I hope we learn to actually belong to one another and love one another.

Other churches have been doing this much longer and are more experienced disciples. The New City Fellowship Churches in Chattanooga and St. Louis help us enormously.

So Broken Pastor, Are You Against Service?
NO! I'm against self-serving service for the sake of the rich. It does more damage than truly helping someone.

I'm in favor of thoughtful, Scripture-directed Kingdom-of-God-service where the gospel of the Kingdom is proclaimed and to set captives free and actually, practically help the widow, fatherless, alien and powerless - without hurting them in the process. I want us all to receive really good news, alleviate real suffering and offer developing relief so people, families and cities change.

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