Hands Grasping

Why the Act of Service Can Literally Change the World

Hands Grasping

I like to talk about changing the world but I don’t really like to do what it takes.” – Eugene Cho

Reading an interview with Pastor Eugene Cho, in which he discussed his new book Overrated, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated. The interview called out the American Church, with Eugene saying that we were on pace to become “the most overrated generation in human history.” His reasoning? We have access to so much data, info, resources, modes of communication, but we end up doing so little.

The feeling of frustration stemmed from the idea that we have created this bubble where Christians like the idea of serving, but when it comes to the act, we would prefer to let someone else do the leg work. Someone who has been “called” to do it. This belief extends into everything from missionary service to helping out at the local foodbank. We have rejected the idea that we could actually be the hands and feet of Christ, and instead have pawned it off on someone else.

But the false belief isn’t just about physical service. Only 5% of the U.S. church tithes, with 80% of Americans only giving 2% of their income.

We have rejected the idea that we could actually be the hands and feet of Christ, and instead have pawned it off on someone else.

So what would happen if we rejected the idea that it was someone else’s job to serve? What if the other 95% gave, and what if the church gave roughly 10% of their income? What kind of impact could we, as the American Church, have? Relevant Magazine breaks it down:

  • $25 billion could relieve global hunger, starvation and deaths from preventable diseases in five years.
  • $12 billion could eliminate illiteracy in five years.
  • $15 billion could solve the world’s water and sanitation issues, specifically at places in the world where 1 billion people live on less than $1 per day.
  • $1 billion could fully fund all overseas mission work.
  • $100 – $110 billion would still be left over for additional ministry expansion.

Consider the impact we could have if we engaged financially.

And what of service? If each member of the body served one hour a month, we would, conservatively, total over 677 MILLION hours of service across one year. That’s enough time to match four years of work at Apple across the entire company.

Consider the impact we could have if we engaged as servants in our community.

Jesus used a parable in Matthew 25 to describe what faith and the pursuit of righteousness looks like, beginning in verse 34, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Consider the impact we could have if pursuing righteousness and serving the least of these was the norm.

So how do set a new course that aligns with Christ, and increases the impact of the church? Here are three places to start:

Find a cause that aligns with your passions

Let’s be honest, we aren’t all passionate about watching infants or engaging in conversation with new visitors at church. But we each hold passions for something, and the Bible even notes this in 1 Corinthians 12, saying, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”

Consider the impact we could have if pursuing righteousness and serving the least of these was the norm.

Chris Marlow, founder of HelpOneNow, asked the question during his Tedx Talk “When we give up time (to serve), how do we access the best part of who we are so we can solve problems?” His answer was to “unleash human capital” by aligning our service with our passions. His friend, John, was a businessman who loved strategic planning, and he invited John to go with him to Haiti to work with aspiring entrepreneurs on their business plans, pitch decks, and strategies. As Chris says, “you have a talent, you have a knowledge set, you have a network, and you have a resource that can absolutely solve global problems.”

Get uncomfortable and don’t be afraid to try something new

I had served in varying capacities across my time with the church, but it wasn’t until July 2013 that I found something I felt truly passionate about. An opportunity came up to cook and serve food to a group of homeless and less-fortunate folks in one of the neighborhoods in East Austin. Seeing it as an opportunity to hang out with some good folks, my wife and I joined them one Sunday afternoon. This was something uncomfortable for me as I had previously held a prejudice against the homeless, and had written them off as a bunch of people looking for handouts, defiantly ungrateful, and probably on drugs. God showed me something different.

If we as the church want to change the world, we must first serve as Christ did.

During my first time serving, I saw more than 100 people get a hot meal. Many of the folks thanked me for the food, personally asking about family and how I got to Austin. They weren’t ungrateful, spiteful, or anything else. I had a chance to sit and talk with them while they ate, and some of them were open to sharing their stories. While many had struggled with substance abuse in one form or another, some stories were that of bad timing, luck, or circumstance. Some of them worked, and were looking for a way out. I wept on the way home.

Since that day, I have helped cook for them each month. I know some of them personally, and have found a passion for the community that I never knew existed. I would never have found it had I not pursued something uncomfortable and new.

Rally your friends and evangelize your cause

There is power in numbers, with the impact exponentially increased with each person aligned on the same mission. Invite your friends, invite your neighbors, invite your co-workers, and invite acquaintances to serve alongside you. If you serve on a regular basis, invite on a regular basis. Rally around the idea of service and encourage your network to join you. Become an activist for the causes you believe in, and use your tools and resources to benefit them.

Remember, Christ is the example we pursue. If we as the church want to change the world, we must first serve as Christ did. We must eliminate the idea that it’s someone else’s responsibility, and get uncomfortable. His example paves the way.

“Do more than belong: participate. Do more than care: help. Do more than believe: practice. Do more than be fair: be kind. Do more than forgive: forget. Do more than dream: work.”
William Arthur Ward


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Image credit: Leo Grübler, Creative Commons

Editor's Note: This article is part of our STG Men's Series. Check out the rest of the articles here!

This article is part of our STG Men’s Series. Check out the rest of the articles here!


Aaron Bartlett lives with his wife, daughter, and dogs in Austin, TX. He has a passion for sales and business development, and approaches life with a lens of creativity. He is a passionate sports fan, and enjoys writing and playing music.

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