Just past the turn of the century the idea of being “glocal” caught fire in Western Christianity. With the increase in technology comes a deeper awareness of the world around us consequently our heart has broken for people whose lives we will never touch. This heartbreak led to a shift in the way that the Western Church sees the idea of outreach. It is no longer enough to simply give money to missionaries in some other part of the world, whose work you may or may not get a glimpse of on social media, via email or in a stellar multimedia presentation. We are being called to actually serve those far corners of the Earth in a deeper capacity. There are thousands of organizations that create a space by which “lay people” (as opposed to trained missionaries) can actually serve the world in a global context.
At the same time, it has not been lost on anyone that the local church is meant to serve the local community. Not only that, but some of us are simply not able to come up with the funds and/or time to take trips to serve the nations. For the vast majority of us the natural outlet for this desire to pray and support globally and serve locally. We quite literally think globally and act locally. I want to be clear that I think this move is amazing. To let your heart break for what breaks God’s, while blooming where you are planted is a wonderful expression of what it means to respond to the amazing thing Jesus did for us.
There is a tension that exists between focusing on what is good for them and what is good for us. We see this in everything from business to politics to religion. The difference for those of us who follow Jesus is that the focus is always on what is good for them. We consider our neighbor as greater than our self; and our neighbor is whoever God has put in our path. This movement toward glocal service is a very healthy expression of living in that tension without loosing focus on who we are as Christians, but it misses something.
There is a danger in feeling like we are serving globally and locally. We may start to develop that, “I gave at the office” mentality. We may start to feel like we do not have to live every minute of every day with our eyes wide open to love the one in front of us. Stories of the powerful ripple effect one personal act of impromptu service can have on the world populate everything from our social media feeds to our group texts. Why is it, then, that we so quickly loose sight of the most powerful type of service there is: personal service.
Yes. It is important that we care about the poor and the hurting in the furthest reaches of the planet. If we really believe all that Jesus taught then we can’t ignore anyone for sake of distance.
Yes. It is important that we serve our local community in whatever way we can. If we actually belong to an upside down kingdom in which the first becomes the last and God’s strength is shown in our weakness then we simply cannot not serve our community.
But for the love of God: serve people in your own life.
Literally: if you love God, love your neighbor.
There is nothing more essential than loving people in your personal life. If everyone who follows Jesus did this and did this well, it would change everything. If we literally walked through every day looking for opportunities to serve and love on others we would change the fabric of our society. I spent time as a missionary serving the homeless and the urban poor. It was incredible. I saw and experienced things that I will never forget, but the thing that changed my life forever wasn’t the repetitive instances of God showing up in my field of service, it was what happened in my personal life. It was the man I had breakfast with and the one who I went grocery shopping with. It was the teenager that was lost and needed a ride home and the guy who just needed a couple of bucks and to be looked in the eye while I shook his hand. Even more than that it was the realization that I could be so selfless with others but was so selfish with my wife and my kids and my neighbors. It was when I began to let my heart break not only for the people close to God’s heart but the people close to my own that everything changed.
Please don’t stop loving on and serving people globally, in whatever manner you are able. Please don’t stop serving your local community, God know’s His church could use some good PR. But if you want to change everything, if you want to live a life so radically different that people around you will know something is different about you: love the ones you love.