Serving Downtown

Quinton Mol | Student of Redeemer 

Glorifying God in All That We Do 

After being at Redeemer for four years, I still feel like I am only beginning my learning process. With the start of each semester, it is as if the educational clock resets itself, except we approach each semester with many more presuppositions than the previous times. It is almost as if each semester there is a software update being performed on both our intellect and our souls. Through the perpetual updating of our being, our worldviews continue to be refined into what we hope is a biblical worldview. One of the most prominent, manipulative attempts at such an ideological refinery that I have experienced here at Redeemer is the claim that “to be a Christian at Redeemer, you need to serve downtown.” Although there are few people who say this explicitly, it is an implicit attitude that is present among the student body.

It wasn’t too long after the start of my first year here at Redeemer that downtown mission agenda was pressed upon me. I am sure you too have already encountered many people pressuring you to serve Jesus and to put your faith into action by serving in downtown Hamilton. It is almost as if the ideal faith life at Redeemer can be adapted into Petula Clark’s song "Downtown." In the main chorus of this 1965 hit, Ms. Clark praises the downtown core, admiring the fact that "things will be great when you're downtown, no finer place for sure, downtown everything's waiting for you."  Today, we may be praising the downtown for its ease of access to mission organizations. We join into a similar chorus, singing, “downtown [Jesus] is waiting for you.” This medley can easily be applied to the mentality of Christian service here at Redeemer and it can be dangerous. Don't get me wrong, Christian service is a essential aspect of the Christian life, but as the writer of Ecclesiastes emphasizes, "there is a time for everything" (3:1). That being said, there is a time to engage in service downtown and there is a time to abstain.  

In order to best make my point, it is necessary to dig a little deeper into who we are as Christians and what our calling is. We need to first ask ourselves some foundational questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What is my Purpose?  

When we begin to ask ourselves the question "who am I," we are confronted with many challenges. How can I use one word to properly identify myself? Is my identity based on my career? If that's true, I am student. I am a youth pastor. I am a butcher all past jobs I have occupied. Is my identity based on my family heritage? If that's true, I am a grandson, a son, a brother, and I am Canadian-Dutch (with a little bit of Frisian). Is my identity based off of my character traits? If that is true, I am loyal, humorous, and an extrovert. You see, when you try to identify yourself from merely one aspect of your life, your sense of identity will always fall short. Who you are is immeasurably beyond what you do, your family, or your traits.

Who you are is ultimately rooted in your biblical identity. First and foremost, you are a beloved child of God (John 1: 12). Second, you are complete in Christ (Col. 2:10). Third, you are a saint (Eph. 1:1). But most importantly, your identity is rooted in the undeniable fact that you are chosen by God to do the work of God; you are His servant (2 Cor. 6:1-4).

This verse in 2 Corinthians does a sufficient job bridging the gap between our identity and our calling. Your purpose is intimately connected with who you are. Your calling flows out of who you are. Thus, as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is your calling to serve Him. At this point you may think I may be about to contradict myself. The only way I could do that is if I equivocated being servant of Jesus at Redeemer with going downtown or with physical acts. But that is not what I intend to do. To fully be a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must recognize our purpose. That is to say we must recognize our chief end.  According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We glorify God by performing fully in the situation that He has called us to. And together, at Redeemer, we are first called as students (at least the majority of us). To be fully you and to fully serve you must fully be a student.

To quote Dr. David Zietsma from his recent address at the September Church in the Box service, we should be “Christ followers who happen to be” students. Being perpetually future-sighted to be missional rather than studious is a dangerous thing. To always look 5 years down the road or to the next mission event neglects the purposes God has for you here and now. God has plans for you to serve Him here and now. That is living faithfully before Him in the mundane routines of life: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10).   

Thus, I want to say this to you today: exercise discernment. Establish God’s sense of timing in your life do not worry about tomorrow, serve Him today. Again, it is important to be downtown, but do not be persuaded that it somehow makes you a better Christian. Focus on you right now. Focus on your relationship with Jesus Christ first. Further your academic knowledge of faith and honour God through your studies. Let this be your spiritual act of worship (Rom. 12:1). If you are to serve downtown, do so genuinely, do so within your calling, not because you are pressured into it or to get a vain sense of satisfaction. Do so, so that in all things Christ may be glorified.