Some introductory remarks to the book were written by Williams' successor, Justin Welby. I didn't know anything about him and ran across this profile of him, written four years ago for The Telegraph. I appreciated most of what he said and was especially struck by this:
The Church, I say, is good at talking, but not at actually doing things to improve the social order [says the author of the piece]
“RUBBISH!” shouts the Archbishop, genially. “It is one of the most powerful forces of social cohesion. Did you know that each month all the Churches [in the United Kingdom] – roughly half of the numbers being Anglican – contribute 23 million hours of voluntary work, outside what they do in church? And it’s growing. There are now between 1,200 and 2,000 food banks in which the Church is involved. Ten years ago, there were none. There are vicars living in every impoverished area in the country. This springs out of genuine spirituality. We’re not just Rotary with a pointy roof.”We who make up the Church aren't just the Rotary with a pointy roof.
That's often forgotten, even by church members, ostensibly disciples of Jesus Christ on a life and death mission from the Lord to be and make disciples.
That fact will cause us to do what Welby calls "voluntary work," like the folks from the congregation I serve here who go each year to do real service in Haiti, Appalachia, India, and elsewhere.
Or the others who will feed 150 men at a Dayton homeless shelter next weekend.
Or those Living Water disciples who tutor impoverished kids or run the local Upward sports program.
But we do those things not because we're just a bunch of community do-gooders.
The Rotary is nice. But the Church plays for bigger stakes: The eternal good of everyone we encounter. Whatever good we do comes from and is all about Jesus alone.
There's nothing wrong we Rotarians, but we Christians commit acts of service because Jesus died and rose for us, liberated us to love God and love neighbor, and has sent us into the world filled with Christ's love not only to do loving things but to share the Good News of Jesus' death and resurrection that can change people's lives now and in eternity, when they turn from sin and entrust their lives to Him.
In fact, at Living Water, we don't even have a conventional "pointy roof," by which I imagine Welby means a steeple. It's people who rightly confess Christ and rightly share in the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion that make up the Church.
And having been made into the Church by the Three-in-One God, we serve others prolifically for much higher stakes than just relieving their discomfort, poverty, or pain. We serve to be windows onto the loving soul of God. Our serving gives a simple message: If God can turn someone like me into a confident, loving ambassador for Christ, He can change anyone's life for the better forever.
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]