A moment of your time…
By the Rev. Dr. Christine Roush
Stewardship in the church has long focused on giving, and well it should. A deep truth is found at the center of Matthew 6:21: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In a culture driven by consumerism and bent on filling our homes and lives with “stuff,” there is critical need for the church to talk about our money and our hearts.
But another stewardship topic deserves equal reflection: Time. More accurately, how we use it. In a world where so many find themselves filling each day to the brim, saving nothing for the margins, time is a scarce resource. The hectic pace at which most of us live often makes it easier to give our church our money than our time. Therein lies the problem. Without our time, who will share the Good News with a world in such need of hearing it? God needs our time.
If time is to be “spent,” where do we invest it? I’d like to offer three suggestions for the people of God. First, spend time each week together in worship. Yes, life is busy. There are many things with which you could fill the hour. Church, however, is not only about you. It is a gathering of God’s people to share with one another in worship of the Lord. There will be someone — probably even several people — in pain and despair every Sunday of the year. They need to be surrounded by believers who will hold them up when they cannot do it for themselves.
Each Sunday offers possibility for God to work through you to reach someone with the healing news of Jesus. The comfort your presence will provide to others cannot be measured, and God uses you in ways you can’t understand. Not only are you an encouragement to others, you provide space in a busy life for God to speak to you directly. Spend a portion of your time each week in worship for the sake of your own spiritual life. Of equal importance to those dedicated to Jesus, spend time in worship for the ways in which your presence will encourage others around you.
Second, spend another hour each week intentionally hanging out with someone who does not yet know God. How are we to reach new people with the life-saving news of Jesus if we never spend time with people who need to hear it? Jesus took a bunch of untrained, everyday people when he chose his disciples. With them, he changed the world. It is a pattern we are expected to repeat. Make time every week for someone who does not know Jesus, and build a relationship with him or her. Let that person see Jesus in you. Meet wherever and however they are willing to meet: the local coffee shop, in a bowling league, or in the pub down the street. Spend time with people where they are comfortable. Jesus met people where he found them, and his followers should be willing to do the same.
Finally, spend another hour each week in service. There are many worthwhile places to be the hands of Jesus in our broken world. The world needs to see Jesus in us and in our actions. How we use our time is a witness to our faith and the values we hold. Christ said that each time we look after the sick, feed the hungry, care for the widow and orphan, and visit those in prison, we are doing it for him.
We live in a culture where becoming part of larger organizations is on the decline. People are no longer “joiners.” From the Rotary to Scouting, and Lions to Kiwanis, service organizations are losing members. While there are many factors at play in this membership slide, the result remains the same — countless important services can no longer be provided. Volunteer roles are going unfilled in childhood reading programs, meal services for the elderly, coaching youth leagues and soup kitchens across America.
Christ followers have instant entrée into our communities every day, if we choose to serve. Our friends and neighbors who don’t know Christ will not be attracted by our voices alone. They will need to see our actions. They want more from us than hearing stories of how Christ makes a difference in our lives. They want to see that difference in the way we live.
When asked the greatest Commandment, Christ said there were two. Love God, and love your neighbor. If we are truly dedicated to evangelism and discipleship, it is going to require each of us to consider more than merely how we invest our money each year. Spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ requires a much broader perspective of stewardship. The ways in which we “spend” our hours, creativity, hospitality, vehicles, vacations, homes, faith journeys — every gift God has given us — can change our world. But only if we choose to spend them on Jesus and his ministry in the first place.
God needs our time. Imagine the difference Christians would make in this world if every Christ follower invested three blocks of time weekly. Our churches would be vibrant, as we all joined together in worship; those who did not know Christ would see Jesus in us as we built relationships with them over coffee every week; and kids learning to read, hungry folks looking for a meal, and prisoners looking for redemption could all find a helping hand in God’s people waiting to serve them.
We all get the same 24 hours in a day. Invest them in Jesus and his kingdom.
The Rev. Dr. Christine Roush is mission engagement specialist for American Baptist Home Mission Societies.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.