GO To Church and BE The Church

This post is from my friend over at Ex-Nazarene.  A response to a growing trend of some Nazarene churches to actually cancel Sunday services in order to go out and do community service projects- but they don’t even focus on presenting the gospel!   Reminds me of the quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, which says “Preach the gospel at al times, and, if necessary, use words.”  How wrong, and even unbiblical that is.  That is a silent evangelism which does not work if you do not explain the gospel to people.  We surely must live our lives in a way that does not discredit our witness, but we cannot really draw people to the Lord simply by living a good life and showing Jesus-like behavior, because even non-believers can show Jesus-like behavior.

Instead of failing to present the gospel, here are examples of how to stay true to the gospel and actually bring it to the lost.

October 5, 2009 by exnazarene

This past Sunday, while many churches in the Southwest Ohio Nazarene District were canceling services in order to go out and do community service projects, wearing “Don’t Go to Church –  Be the Church” tee shirts with press coverage in tow, so as to gain community approval, my church had service.

This particular Sunday was given over to the Deaf Ministry to honor 20 years of outreach to the deaf community.  The worship, preaching, testimonies, and altar call, were all led by a deaf minister who is a member of the church.  The Deaf Ministry is not separate from the hearing church, but is incorporated into the whole life of the church through dedicated workers who interpret every week and minister to those who are marginalized in society and forgotten by most churches.

I was moved as I watched men and women of all ages from the deaf community, some with additional handicaps, stand on the platform and sign the music for the hearing audience.  This Sunday, we had an interpreter telling us what was being said, not the other way around.  The deaf minister testified that at his other church, where he was on staff, he shared with the hearing pastor his passion for getting the gospel to the deaf community so that they too could know of forgiveness of sins and of God’s saving power through Jesus.  The hearing pastor told him that it wasn’t important to get the gospel to the deaf community because they would all be allowed in heaven without ever hearing the gospel.  He was shocked by such a view and left that church.  The deaf minister had/has a clear understanding of  the power of the gospel to change the hearts of men and women.  Deaf people are sinners too, in need of the saving grace of the Lord.  A repentant heart means a changed life, even for the deaf.

As I watched all this, I thought that this was a clear picture of the works that we were to be engaged in to further the Kingdom of God.   Works that clearly and unapologetically present the gospel….not a gospel of fluff and grace, and easy believism,…..but a gospel that presents the bad news first, our need for salvation and then the good news of God’s mercy and grace.  I watched as the interpreters were recognized for 20 years of service.  No TV cameras or press coverage was there.  These were good works.   This was furthering the Kingdom of God.

I listened to the announcement about the last details coming together for the Family Life Ministry which is to open soon for unwed mothers.  A home which the church wants to use to  serve those who are unwed and expecting, so as to save the life of the child from abortion and to just as importantly present the gospel to an unwed mother so that the Holy Spirit would change her life.  This is a good work.  This is what the Kingdom of God is about, sharing the gospel, the bad news and the good news, so to change hearts, so that Jesus is served and Jesus is Lord.  Many people have been working for months to get this ministry ready, and many people are ready to work once the ministry is open.  This is the work we are to be engaged in for the good of the community.

I thought of the five bus routes, and dedicated bus workers,  who each week get up early to get on  buses and go out to some of the poorer areas around our community to pick up mostly kids, and a few adults,  to bring them to church and Sunday School to teach them the Word of God and to present the gospel.  Periodically, one of the bus kids comes forward in church for baptism testifying to the saving grace of Jesus Christ in their life.  Permission is secured first from their home and many times, other family members end up coming to church and staying because a dedicated bus worker picked up their child week after week to bring them to church.  This is a good work.  The gospel changes hearts, changes families, and changes communities.  This is the Kingdom of God.

I thought back to this past summer, to the Vacation Bible School program in which five different satellite locations were also used to take the Word and work of God into the poorer communities.  The church holds the larger VBS on its grounds, but there are workers who take VBS to other locations at the same time, so that kids in the poorer neighborhoods, can be given a Bible and hear a clear presentation of the gospel every night along with VBS activities.  I recall seeing some of the adult men share the gospel one on one with some of the adults who came to ask questions.  There is no glitz or glamour in this. No press coverage.  There is an element of danger from the gangs.  This a good work; this is the Kingdom of God being built to change hearts, to call people to repentance.

There are many more daily ongoing works that I could list, the Food Pantry, those who go door to door on Visitation night to present the gospel to those whose names were given by others for follow-up work, funeral meals for grieving families, works for widows, etc.  All this is done weekly at the church.  All these works are done in conjunction with a clear presentation of the gospel, not in lieu of hearing the gospel.

We don’t have to cancel church services to try to get the attention of a community to do a “social gospel”.  We understand that the gospel has the power to change lives and we use every opportunity to spread its message whenever we can, not with bait and switch techniques, or to follow after John Ortberg of Willow Creek’s fame, Faith In Action Sunday Program, that wants churches to shut their doors and call the TV stations.

We are not to seek after the world’s approval.  But this is exactly what is taking place with The Don’t Go To Church, Be The Church campaign.  Those who follow such a market-driven format seek the world’s approval.   Jesus warned us that the world would hate us because of the gospel.  He said that we would endure persecution because of it and some would lose their life.  That’s why I gave a couple of examples in my  previous article of Nazarene pastors being executed for presenting the gospel.

To lead congregations into believing the Kingdom of God is about cancelling services and doing social services for a community, is an insult to the blood of these Nazarene pastors and their families and to those who are faithful to verbalize the message of the gospel to those in their community without compromise.

Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”