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Tony Myles is a youth ministry veteran, author, speaker, volunteer youth worker and lead pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio... and he really likes smoothies.

Evangelism and service: Make sure you don’t confuse the two.

A service project doesn’t necessarily require evangelism, and evangelism doesn’t necessarily require a service project.

Two years ago I realized that I get this wrong more than I get it right. I was walking around a “back to school” event our church organized for a low-income apartment complex. It was our third year at this location, and every year things got “bigger” and “better.”

Or so I thought.

I’d noticed that the free haircut station we’d added that year was incredibly popular. We’d also handed out more backpacks than ever before, each filled with more than 20 dollars in school supplies. Every kid even got a new basketball.

True to any church “outreach” event, we also had the obligatory bounce house. Several carnival-like games gave kids enough cotton candy, snow cones, and candy to keep them wired for a month. Everything was going well.

That’s when it hit me.

I’d not talked about Jesus with anyone at all during the event. Not counting our volunteer prayer time, the main mention of “Christ” came through the Christian music we’d blended with popular radio music.

Make no mistake about it: They knew we were a church. Each of us had our custom-made church shirts with our custom-made church logo on it. I just believe we forgot we were a church along the way.
Let me say this again: A service project doesn’t necessarily require evangelism, and evangelism doesn’t necessarily require a service project. Even atheists can do a good deed, so might you need to stop serving right now so you can discern the role evangelism must play into it?

Here are a few thoughts via my life verse, 1 Corinthians 4:1: “This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.”
• The Greek word for “servant” is “huperetes,” which translates as “under-oarsman.”
• An under-oarsman on an ancient ship rowed a big oar with others to propel the boat forward.
• You don’t see the under-oarsmen when they’re serving—you only see the fruit of their work.
• Our challenge is to make sure people don’t see us (or our churches and youth groups) when we serve, but that they would see Christ through us.
Like I said, this is my life verse. I’ve known this for years… yet I still missed it. Where’s your blind spot?

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