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“You do so well in so many things—you trust God, you’re articulate, you’re insightful, you’re passionate, you love us—now, do your best in this, too” (2 Cor. 8:7, MSG).

Paul wrote those words to the Christians in Corinth. He started by describing things they did well, and there were several of those. He then encouraged them to do something they had not done well: following through with a promise to contribute money to others who were in need.

At that time, the Christians in Jerusalem were going through a horrific time. Persecution, famine and backbreaking taxes levied by the Roman Empire had left them extremely poor. They were experiencing great financial need. So Paul wrote and reminded the Corinthian Christians of the commitment they had made to other believers.

We have churches in our communities that are good at many things. But I sometimes fear that we can let what we’re good at get in the way of what’s needed. If we focus only on what we’re good at, we can fail to see other things that may be needed as well.

As a campus pastor at a church that places a high priority on serving the poor in our city, I’ve found that what is easy and what is needed are often different. It’s easy to write a check or donate winter clothes. Both of those things are important, but people often need things other than money or clothes.

If we slow down and listen to the cries of those around us, I think we will hear pleas for something less convenient but, perhaps, more needed. I think we will hear cries of loneliness from people who need caring relationships. If we fail to listen, caring for the needy may become about what makes us feel good instead of what really helps people.

Hearing the cries of young people in my community prompted me to partner with an organization called Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS). BBBS matches adult mentors with young people who need someone to believe in them and invest in them. There’s nothing fancy about it; I simply meet a fifth-grader at his school for lunch and spend time with him. I don’t think mentoring would have been my first choice of things to do, but I know that mentoring can make a huge difference in the lives of fatherless children and teens.

Mentoring is just one way to answer a need. Listen to your community and discover the needs around you. I am quite sure that you have been placed where your unique gifts can be most effective.

I pray that we as individuals and as a community will begin to listen more—to others and to God. As we listen carefully, we will hear what people’s true needs are; and I know that God will speak to us and let us know exactly how to respond.

How You Can Pray

When it comes to serving, are you doing what is easy, what makes you feel good? Or are you truly asking God to lead you to the people and tasks that need you most? This week, pray for an open, willing heart and abundant opportunities to serve.

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is the assisting minister at Connection (Bettendorf Foursquare Church) in Bettendorf, Iowa.