I have covered mega-trend 1, 2&5 and now I turn to trend 4. Trend four is an interesting one and I have two thoughts. First, colleges as well as high schools now require community service. All things being equal between two prospective candidates, many colleges now place as much or more emphasis on community service than SAT’s. Many national scholar programs also require community service and the service performed at church counts. It counts because many of the causes that are supported by the world are supported by the church.
Churches are seeing more participation because they have entered into a compact with secular humanist; they both now agree on community service. Does this mean that the church is reaching the world? Not hardly. The world has gotten the church to embrace their cause in their way. Many are good service endeavors if it were not that the element of the Gospel is never a part of these programs. Oh yes we tell folks we are from the church and we are here to help in love, but the love of Christ is quietly left out…the church and the world are merging even in their causes. I am not sure that this trend is as positive as one might think.
This leads me to my second thought. Churches find it easier to send children out into the community for service than to bring them in for Biblical training. The Christian world is a busy world. Every church has more activities than they have resources. We are raising another generation of poorly taught children. The childhood years are for training and life skill formation. Done well and they will serve for the rest of their life. In their secular education we do not expect our children to start working in the world in their grade school years, we train them and then we send them out to perform. In church we send them out and hope they a few bible stories will suffice for a life time. This is why as adults they show up in church ready to participate in every program except Bible study.
4. Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating.
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. (George Barna)
Published on Friday, December 17, 2010 @ 7:19 AM CDT