Closer is better

Renewing an American passport with the federal government takes weeks. Even though our case has unusual circumstances, someone from a state representative’s office said the normal process is now taking around six weeks.

Contrast that with the last time I renewed my US driver’s license. (Yes, I have one here and in Brazil. Dealing with piles of documentation is always fun.) I went with my mom to the county revenue office. She needed to renew her car tags; I, my driver’s license. We were both in and out in five minutes, with tags and license in hand.

So we hit it just right this time. Time before last it took me 20 minutes to get my driver’s license. That’s still far ahead of weeks to get a passport.

These two experiences provide a window into government: The closer government is to the people, the more efficient it is, overall. County and state do a better job of providing services than the federal government.

My recent experiences in government services also provide a spiritual illustration: The closer we are to the people we seek to serve, the better job we will do of it.

Outreach through mass media has its place — I do plenty of that — but nothing can replace, nor be as effective as, personal evangelism.

Large programs of benevolence may have a use, but nothing compares to serving your neighbor and meeting his needs.

Let us not be content to let the big programs do our job. Let us not kid ourselves into thinking that well-funded, professionally organized efforts can have greater effect than each one of us doing our part.

You’re tired of hearing me say it, and it’s true for the US, for Brazil, for countries all across the globe: There is no substitute for boots on the ground.

What I mean by that phrase is this: You and your service to the Lord, among the people you know, are, in a real sense, irreplaceable. Yes, we all spout the cliché that no one is indispensable. When it comes to the mission of Christ, that cliché does not apply. It’s not true.

If you don’t speak that Good News of Christ, many will never know nor have the opportunity to obey the Lord. They might even see a TV program, or hear a radio broadcast, or watch a YouTube video. But it won’t have the same impact as you looking them in the eye and speaking to their need. The closer, the better.

And not a few will ever hear the gospel without you sharing it with them.

What you do no one else can.


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