The following article was published on PFI’s website – Global link – and sent as encouragement to all national ministries.

 

SERVING OTHERS AS AN ACT OF WORSHIP

Fred Westerink, executive director of Prison Fellowship Albania, shares how our work in prison ministry is a reflection of God’s character to those around us and an act of worship.

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

We are created for good works.

We reflect God’s image when we serve others, because it is His heart—His desire to include every person into His Kingdom. Even though our reflection of Christ is imperfect this side of heaven, we nevertheless should be intentional in this through our daily actions, prayers, and worship.

Serving others is our act of worship. True worship goes further than music and praise.

We worship God in our activities that bring honour and praise to our Creator. Respect for our work is often easily earned, but we must walk humbly, knowing we do not minister to please other people, but God alone.

I like the well-known passage from Micah 6:8 where we are taught what God really wants from us: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (NIV).

Because our serving others so strongly reflects God’s image, our enemy will grasp whatever he can to distract our focus from God. Being busy, worrying over finances, being overwhelmed by oppression or bureaucracy, disagreements between colleagues—all these and more are reasons our reflection of Christ can dim. We may still be seen as good people and good believers because we serve in ministry, but it is God who tests our hearts.

For our Prison Fellowship Albania team, it is important to find a balance between working in and serving the same ministry. It’s a matter of asking for God’s guidance, time and time again. Prayer seems to be both the least and most effective way to work on this balance. I say this because we don’t always know what we are asking for when we pray for God to perform His will through us and our ministry. This can feel like an inefficient way to plan for and run programmes. At the same time, it is through prayer we open the way for God to show us His path, to allow Him to bring about the opportunities for good works He has prepared.

I believe every ministry leader should build a network of people who pray for them, their teams, and the global Prison Fellowship International ministry. And, at the same time, involve the local team and pray together.

I have seen many people respond to God’s prompting because of praying together and serving together.

For example, PF Albania helps former prisoners reintegrate back into society and find a job. For one young father, an ex-offender, we found an internship at a car service. But he wasn’t performing well in his work. Our chaplain shared his concerns for the young man at his church, and asked for prayer. After a couple of days, the young man started performing much better.

A little later, we learned why. Another ex-prisoner in the church group heard of this young man’s problems and decided to wait for the young man after work and walk him home. He did this for two weeks in a row—an hour and a half walk to and from the young man’s workplace to talk sense into him. Why did this man reach out? His motive: “I was helped when I got out of prison, now it is my turn to help.”

Another example that comes to mind is the support programme for 400 of the poorest families of prisoners that PF Albania offers every winter with the help of local churches. If the family member serving time in prison is released, the family no longer qualifies to receive the support of food and firewood. But being released often means more mouths to feed for the family, and still no job.

In the churches of Korca and Cerrik, our beneficiaries who still received support felt sorry for those families who could no longer receive this help. So almost all of them voluntarily gave some of their support to help the others. And the regular church members also started bringing food to church every week to complete these voluntarily food parcels. After we shared this practice in one of our partner meetings, more churches started doing the same wonderful thing.

In closing, I pray for God’s blessing on our precious ministry, that we would never “be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:11–12, NIV).



Serving Others as an Act of Worship
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