Eight-ninths below the surface

Maybe you’ve heard that eight-ninths of an iceberg lies under water. I have no idea if that proportion is true, but it provides a convenient image for what I want to say.

In the life of a church we have what the church does as a group, and what the individual members do on their own. I’ve often wondered how it would look if we could see all these actions–all the giving, the helping, the encouraging, and so on–aggregated together. We might find out that a congregation does a lot more than we think it does–that most of its activity lies below the surface.

For example: The church I belong to has two members who operate small businesses. Over the years they have provided work for people in need, and they have taught generations of young people how to work–how to get a job and how to keep it. Our church has no formal jobs program, and if someone asked, “Do you help people get jobs?” we might miss what the people of the church accomplish.

A couple of implications:

  • If the church doesn’t have a program for something, we shouldn’t think the church doesn’t do it. Much of the work of a church lies in the informal, member-driven area and might escape notice.
  • Supporting the church program does not equal following Jesus. True, church activity can signal a commitment to Christ, but he calls us to do good, not only to do good in groups.
  • Two congregations might look the same on the surface–in membership, programs, organization–but differ in what their members actually do in the world.

We church leaders don’t know everything that goes on in our people’s lives. Sometimes this means we don’t know all their sins, but also it means we may not know every god-driven act they perform. And the closer they are to Jesus, the less likely they are to “let the left hand know what the right hand is doing.”

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