I have a confession to make. I’m not a huge fan of the book Radical.
Now before you stone me, brand me a heretic, or excommunicate me from the church, let me explain.
I live in a small town. Only two traffic signals. The local gas station also offers minnows and take-out pizza (which is good). And in my town is a really small church. No more than 50 people or so. They’ve recently been going through the study Radical, and one of its members recently commented to me, “I can’t go sell my home. Then you’d have one more homeless person in need of ministry.”
I know the comment was tongue-in-cheek, but it does highlight a major problem in the Christian community today: the exaltation of “celebrity” ministry.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’ve met the author of Radical, sat on a panel discussion with his wife. They’re great people. They would never put themselves on a pedestal as more important than others. But their popularity–fueled by the resonance of their message–has created the faulty idea that unless you sell your home, adopt orphans, or create a social enterprise, you’re not fulfilling the call of God to care for others.
We as a Christian community have focused so much on major movers and social shakers that we’ve forgotten that the church was founded by a bunch of uneducated fishermen who didn’t really know what they were doing. The history of Christianity has been propelled forward by millions of anonymous people who were just doing their small thing where they could, however they could. They saw needs and met them.
Take my mother-in-law, for example (she’s going to kill me when she reads this, so this may be my last post). She’s never been highlighted in a magazine, her story never told at a conference or on a Webcast. You wouldn’t recognize her in the airport.
Unless you’re one of the people she’s helped.
She volunteers at my daughter’s school and takes her octogenarian neighbor to the doctor. She fixes meals for underprivileged kids who need to eat on the weekend. She sings in the church choir and changes out the wreaths in the fellowship hall when the seasons change.
Yet, by the standards of our Christian culture, she’s not doing enough. She’s not radical enough, not crazy in love with Jesus enough. She doesn’t qualify for the top ten list of most influential Christians (yes, that list exists).
We’ve replaced anonymous, do-what-you-can-right-where-you-are servanthood with banners and headlines and awards and book deals, making people like my mother-in-law (and me and you) wondering if her small acts of service really matter.
If you’ve ever asked that question, the answer is a resounding yes.
Just ask the kid who will get to eat this weekend because of one anonymous woman.
To quote a not-so-anonymous woman, “We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” (Mother Teresa)
So go and love. Love deeply. Care for others right where you are, even though you’ll never make the front page. You are Jesus with skin on. And every small act of love matters.