Fifteen years ago, some Christians volunteered to help serve and prepare food for a New York City AIDS hospice with a clientele primarily of homosexual men. Since the hospice was involved in the gay rights movement, its administrators were nervous about letting church volunteers inside their doors. They made the expectations clear: you can come and serve, but don't proselytize.
Today, Christians still come and serve food in the hospice. But they also come to help with something else, something that would have been unthinkable 15 years ago: a worship service.
This service was started at the request of hospice residents, who over the years developed deeper and deeper friendships with the church folks who showed up every week to offer a loving presence. Now the name of Jesus is heard regularly in what was once the most secular of environments.
This story illustrates one of the stickier relationships in ministry: word and deed. While most Christian leaders will quickly say the two can't be separated, the question remains, especially with more and more churches focusing on justice ministry: how open can Christians be about their faith? In many situations, the "serving" is welcome but "proselytizing" is not. How do Christians bring the name of Jesus into works of compassion, mercy, and justice?
The love of Jesus in public schools
"We bring Jesus in through the relationships that we build," says Efrem Smith, pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
For years Sanctuary Covenant has ministered within the Minneapolis public schools, running a tutoring program to help children get reading and math skills up to grade level. Another initiative is called Hip Hop Academy, an after-school arts program for a district in which ...