Not only are Christians to be serving one another, but they are also to be serving the community, "[letting their] light shine before men" (Matthew 5:16) and "[proclaiming] the excellencies of Him who has called [them] out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). "Do all things without grumbling or disputing; that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:14-15).
Will the local church fulfill its purpose and shine like a radiant light against the darkness? In his letter to the Philippians, Paul pleads with the members to nurture their love and maintain unity at all costs: "If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:1-5).
[Paul] asks his people to "carry about in their bodies the dying of Jesus" (2 Cor. 4:10) and to "fill up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions" (Col. 1:24). By becoming increasingly "like [Christ] in his death" (Phil. 3:10), by persevering through the same sort of ostracism and rejection that the Lord himself endured (2 Cor. 13:4)—a not unexpected consequence of manifesting a love so antithetical to the egotism of the world that it poses a mortal threat to the world and its ways—members are prepared to "manifest in their bodies the life of Jesus" (2 Cor. 4:10). They are prepared to become conduits of resurrection life to more and more people, causing the "thanksgiving of many to increase to the glory of God" (2 Cor. 4:15). suffering, when authored by the hand of a sovereign God, works paradoxically to engender love and to encourage a radiant witness in the world (1 Pet. 1:6-7).1
The local church is not an island unto itself. "While the local church must guard the unity within, it must also showcase the unity without. ... It is part and parcel of God's cosmic plan to use this family to placard his glory before secular eyes. "Through you I will vindicate my holiness before the nations . . . declares the Lord GOD" (Ezek. 36:23). But even churches endorsing the call to radiate the light outwardly can stumble in their witness. They can seek to impress and draw in outsiders on worldly terms, adjusting styles of worship, manners of dress, and even content of sermons to cater to worldly tastes."2
Two things come to mind when thinking of the Christian's role in the community. The first: "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:13-16). The second: "A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho; and he fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went off leaving him half dead. And by chance a certain priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him, and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.' Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands?" (Luke 10:27-37). The answer was "The one who showed mercy toward him" (v. 37). This is what the Christian ought to look like and be doing in the community at large.
There are two things the local church needs to do: One, bring the world to Christ by inviting the world into its assemblies so that they can see the better way; Two, bring Christ to the world by bringing God's love to the city (by pursuing corporate ministries within its city, ministering to neighbours and enemies, seeking to improve living conditions for those who have need, etc.). The Christian ought to be loving men and women to Jesus. "To love your neighbor as yourself is not merely to love another as much as you love yourself, but to take up the life of another and make it your own."3
People need to have their spiritual, emotional and physical needs met. Whatever the situation, there is a Bible-based solution and counsel for each and every problem. That does not mean that each and every individual church will have the expertise and know-how to deal with every given situation. However, every church should have access to resources needful to guide an individual in the proper direction along with God’s Word. For example, at times it is hard for single mothers to control their adolescent children without the help of father figures. If these single mothers are churchgoers and there are no programs, seminars, and/or sermons to help them in this area, then the church is not meeting their needs. The church should always strive to meet the needs of men and women as it brings the good news of the salvation message of Christ Jesus.
Jesus gave us the ultimate blueprint for successfully meeting the needs of others. When Jesus fed the 4,000 (Mark 8:1-9), he demonstrated by His deeds the church's purpose and function. Before He preached His sermon, He fed the "churchcomers." After feeding them with physical food, He then fed them with spiritual food for the soul. Both their physical and spiritual needs were met. One of the sad commentaries against Christianity is that this responsibility is being performed by cults such as Mormonism. They are entering people's everyday lives and offering to do things for them that meet their needs, and then they are sharing their doctrines of demons with these people and gaining converts. How much more should Christians be doing this?
When the world looks at us, do they say, "Look how they love one another"? Do they feel the love of Christ emanating from within us toward them? As a song by Joy Williams asks, "Do they see Jesus in me?" If we were being held on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict us? That should give us pause to consider our "Christianity" and whether we are truly of the faith or not.
1 Timothy Savage, The Church: God's New People, p.20.
2 Ibid, pp.20-21.
2 Ibid, p.24.