Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Modern March | a Christian blog

Modern March | a Christian blog

For the Love of God – Part 3: Reflecting God’s Love in… Community Engagement

Posted: 21 Nov 2011 07:00 AM PST

Part 3: Reflecting God’s Love in… Community Engagement

There are numerous evangelistic models that are being used in the church today. Everything from inviting people to service by offering them entrance into a raffle for a free car (which I do not recommend) to encouraging members to invite friends to special events (which has some positives to it). Regardless of your style or combining of these methods, one thing cannot be forgotten: loving and showing Christ to the community was the paramount aim of the New Testament church.

The First Church

The first instance in which Scripture talks about gathered believers post-Resurrection is in Acts 2:42-47:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

This church did not only meet at the building of worship, they met in their homes. They lived life together. This was not a once a week social club, this was a lifestyle. They had several key distinctives:

  1. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching.
  2. They devoted themselves to fellowship.
  3. They devoted themselves to prayer (imagine that!).
  4. They had all things in common (they shared all property and possessions).
  5. They sold their belongings and gave to all who had need.
  6. They attended the temple and their homes together daily.
  7. They received food with glad hearts and praised God for it.
  8. They had favor with all people.

Take a moment to ponder what it would be like for your church to live this list out regularly. Notice that verse 47 says that people were being saved daily – just by watching these people live their lives! There was no magic formula and no persuasive gimmicks; they simply loved God and loved others. I'm confident that it wasn't easy to love every one that they came across, but the Gospel was more important to them. Christ is manifested through His church and lives can and will be transformed through His people. Let us remember this, though: The Gospel will need to be clearly voiced in order for your community to understand why you live this way.

Contextualizing without Compromising

It is vital to be aware of the context that your church is in. We can be effective in "fitting in" with our community while simultaneously "standing out" from it. For example, if your church is in an area that is 68% Hispanic, you want to intentionally reach them through Spanish ministries, culturally aware events, etc. If your church is in an 88% upper-class Caucasian neighborhood, your church should look much different. The point is, if you are trying to play an eight-track in a CD player, you're not going to hear music anytime soon. One great lie of Satan is that we have to be so counter-cultural that we hide inside our buildings and wait for people to conform the image we want to project.

That said, it is even more vital to understand that God is sovereign and your efforts are not. You may attempt all the tricks and your church could still close. God's Word is ageless and not culturally bound, therefore it can and must be preached the same everywhere. Paul provides a great example of this in Acts 17:22-34. Paul is sensitive and aware of the Athenians' customs, but in the end he tells them that "the God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of Heaven and Earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything." Paul is clearly uncompromising on his presentation of God. Let there be no contextualizing that does not include the clear proclamation of the Gospel and the need for salvation.

Meeting Needs

In the end, your community should know that you exist and feel the weight of their need for the God you are preaching. The culture today wants answers more than anything else. There is a desperate need and thirst for truth and the church has to be the answer. Where the church fails, society will fail. If the church isn't meeting needs, the world will find a place to have them met. If someone is hungry they may feel the need to steal food, so be the ones to provide it. If someone feels depressed and is suicidal, be the place of refuge through the reflection of hope in God. The list could on, but you get the point.

Remember that the New Testament is largely written to churches and/or their pastors and the apostles' missionary expeditions typically ended with the establishment of a church. The church is the heartbeat of evangelistic discipleship.

Meditate on this question: If your church's doors closed tomorrow, would your community notice?


Up Next: Part 4: Reflecting God's Love in… Church Membership

Filed under: Articles, Church, Gospel


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