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!” – Romans 10:14-15
This summer, many groups will serve many people in many ways. Your group probably has plans to serve this summer—you have the opportunity to show the love of Jesus to people who desperately need it. You have the privilege of demonstrating to others the impact God’s grace has had on you. And in this way, God’s grace to you becomes His grace to them.
But you may also have the tendency to bring only a demonstration of God’s love. Often we serve those who need Jesus without actually telling them about the Jesus they need. A demonstration of the love of God without an explanation of how to receive the love of God is frustratingly incomplete.
Imagine you’ve just finished running a marathon in 100-degree heat. Imagine you have just completed 26.2 sun-scorched miles, brutalized by the rays and blistered by the asphalt. And you’ve had nothing to drink. You are desperately thirsty. You have never had a deeper need.
Now picture that I’m on the sidelines, and I have water. It is amazing. Incredible. And because of your fierce thirst, I want to demonstrate to you how powerfully this water impacts me. It meets my needs. It quenches my thirst. It satisfies me. I want you to see the beauty of this water.
Now imagine you, as a raw-throated marathoner, witness my drinking this crystal clear, glacier cold, bountiful, beautiful water right in front of you.
It is thoroughly quenching my thirst.
Right in front of your face.
Look at this water. This water is so good.
Now imagine that I’m walking away with water in my hand and happiness in my heart because I got to show you the thing you needed most.
And you are still thirsty.
This is often what we do when we merely demonstrate the impact God’s love has had on us through serving without explaining the impact God’s love can have on those we serve. We just show them the “AHHHHHHHHH.” There could be benefit for them, especially when we are in fact meeting a lesser need, such as giving food or helping mend a hurting heart. But we can’t just show the power of the water—we need to explain how they can get it.
We need to say, “Listen, marathon runners, Aquafina has provided a way for your thirst to be quenched. All you need to do is step over to the cooler, lift up the lid, reach down into the ice, pick up the bottle, twist the cap, tilt your head back, and ‘Ahhhhhhhh.’ This water is for you.”
Yes, we must love. And yes, we must serve. Jesus said that the world would know us by our love. But when we have loved and they are ready to listen, when the lesser needs are met and the greatest need is uncovered, will we then preach to them the good news?
Don’t be a group that just shows people the benefits of knowing Jesus. Proclaim to them how to know Him. Serve people and love people. But remember, you serve others best and love them most when you proclaim the hope that is available to them in Christ.
Brandon Hiltibidal is a former church planter and multi-site pastor, and he is now part of the Groups Ministry team at Lifeway Christian Resources. He and his wife have three little girls and lead a community group at The Bridge Church in Spring Hill, TN.