By Ramiro Cano
Praise God for the Bible, the Living Word of God, and the inspired testimonies providing instructions and guidance to us, His children, as we travel this journey preparing for the mansions in glory. I love the fact that as Jesus walked, He left us footprints as a roadmap for us to follow and emulate. Those footprints highlight the essence of who He is and how He desires His children to live. In these solemn times of earth’s history, it is incumbent upon us to heed the inspired counsel. Notice the following:
“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21, NASB).
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28, NLT).
“His whole life was under a law of service. He served all, ministered to all” (Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 359).
These outline Jesus’ pattern for ministry while on this earth. That is what Jesus did by personally associating with individuals for the distinct and clear purpose of service. He went about the townships seeking to rub shoulders with the sinners, touching the sick, and giving words of comfort and hope to everyone He saw.
Just as it was in Jesus’ day, we find many of the same needs today in our communities. Our communities are filled with hurting individuals with great needs. Many are discouraged and lack hope, or they may be sinners in the mire of dysfunction. They desperately need a touch from someone who cares. There are many references in the Bible indicating we are to help the poor and needy. They cannot be ignored. Their importance is paramount to our understanding of our duty and obligation to those around us.
This is not the time for us to be “couch potato” Christians. There is no need for us to somehow put ourselves up on some lofty pedestal, thinking only of ourselves. We need to come down from there and get our hands busy (and dirty) serving in our communities. We need to do just as Jesus did in His day by engaging with the common and needy. Let’s not allow our pride and selfishness to prevent us from serving like the “meek and lowly” Savior. Bringing people to Jesus is when we and our communities will then “find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29, KJV).
If you think about it, our usual method of outreach has been through teaching and inviting the community to come to us to hear and learn the great truths of the Bible. We should not stop doing this. However, this approach does not fully cover Jesus’ formula for ministry. Notice the five-step approach outlined by Ellen White: “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me’” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 143).
Going back through that quote again, we can see the five steps:
- Mingle with people
- Show sympathy
- Minister to their needs
- Win their confidence
- Then make an invitation to follow Jesus
This formula is outlined for us to follow, and that “method alone will give true success in reaching the people.” I ask you: Do we want success? If we do, then that success will only come about because His anointed formula is the one we use. Christ Himself already modeled it for us. It is a promise we can claim, and it will yield positive results.
A few years ago, the Central California Conference launched the Life Hope Center initiative. We invested in a medical missionary mobile unit that houses and transports fully equipped dental chairs and fully equipped vision chairs. We praise God for the many dentists, vision care professionals, and medical providers who have participated. Many volunteers have also given of their time and service to make this transformative impact on health throughout the conference.
But we cannot stop there. Why not start a whole revolution of service for others in our conferences throughout the Pacific Union? Let’s call for all volunteers, vocational and otherwise, to be engaged as well. This is a call for carpenters, electricians, plumbers, handymen, cooks, and on and on! In essence, if you and I can hold a hammer or a cleaning rag in our hands, then we are missionaries! By serving those for whom Jesus died, through a myriad of service functions, then we are performing acts of compassion in our communities.
We need to envision each church and school as a Center of Influence. This can be done by surveying the community immediately adjacent to the church or school; select homes can be adopted as candidates for a “mission trip.” Instead of going to a foreign county, this mission trip is right in our neighborhood. The mission could be to humbly paint someone’s house, fix leaky faucets, clean up the yard, change lights, or even cook a tasty meal. The possibilities are endless!
So, think about this: what if an elderly individual was diagnosed with a serious medical problem; what if there was the loss of a loved one; what if a neighbor was experiencing depression or financial challenges? Who would keep up with repairs or other pressing needs? Whom do they call upon? It might be easy for us to say, “Well, they can call a family member.” But what if there is no one?
What if the church became the answer to the needs of these families? Could we not agree that the church would be a very tangible blessing of service to those in the immediate neighborhood and community? Is this not following in the footsteps of the One who left us an example?
It is for this reason that we in the Central California Conference have stated in our vision statement the following: Reflecting Christ—Transforming Communities.
We hope you will join us. Why? Because we know that, “When the word has been preached in the pulpit, the work has but just begun” (Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 229). What “work” is that? It is clear that it is the work of service and certainly what God wants us to do.
“Long has God waited for the spirit of service to take possession of the whole church so that everyone shall be working for Him according to his ability. When the members of the church of God do their appointed work in the needy fields at home and abroad, in fulfillment of the gospel commission, the whole world will soon be warned and the Lord Jesus will return to this earth with power and great glory. ‘This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come’ Matthew 24:14” (Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 111).
I am fully persuaded it is time for Jesus to come again! My prayer is that the “spirit of service” will quickly take us there!
Ramiro Cano is the president of the Central California Conference.