A yard sale seemed an unlikely thing to inspire a blog about what we are willing to risk for the Gospel.
The couple who stopped by were excited to share the news about their new church building and extend an invitation to me. “Our church had a meeting a while back and voted that we are no longer able to effectively minister to our neighborhood. So we bought some land outside of town and we are moving.”
Those words have troubled me over the last few weeks. This church was in a part of town that needs its ministry more than ever before. Its absence means no present Gospel witness in that area.
At the risk of sounding critical, when did the Gospel become ineffective to reach any neighborhood? Have changes in our culture diminished the power of the Gospel to change lives?
If we believe the Gospel has lost it’s power to change lives, we’re done! But as our culture continues to change, there are challenges we will face. But we must believe the Gospel has power to change any neighborhood if we are willing:
1. To Risk Contamination
If we are transparent, church represents a safe place, a comfort zone. We have our friends, our small group and our kind of music. An influx of “outsiders”, especially if they don’t look like us or like the things we like, contaminates our comfort zone.
The Pharisees had this issue with Jesus. He was contaminating the religious system by welcoming tax collectors and sinners. Even worse, Jesus went outside the splendid walls of the church and joined them.
It’s important for us not to forget, we were once a contaminant! Will we take the risk someone once took for us?
2. Willing To Risk Change
The true message of the Gospel will never change, but the world we share it in will. The Apostle Paul wrote;
I Corinthians 9:22 …I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
Paul’s message was unchanging, but his method in different cultures (neighborhoods), like Ephesus, Corinth, Athens and Rome, were different.
This church, established over 100 years ago had probably not changed their message, but their methods failed to adapt in response to the culture around them.
Very few of them will join us as long as we hold on to what they see as being totally irrelevant to who they are. Speaking in the context of culture, not sin, we cannot continue asking them to deny who they are to join us.
Are we so selfish that we would rather abandon a whole section of a city to Satan, than risk our squeaky clean comfort zone to save it?
3. Risk Loving Our Community
Throughout the last couple decades, the disease of separatism infected the church. As it did, the church turned inward. Rather than loving the community God called them to, they began to isolate themselves from it. As the community around the church changes eventually the people stop loving the community and began to fear it.
The less the neighborhood around them became like them, the more they withdrew inside the walls of the church. The focus turned from ministering to the community, to serving and ministering within the church.
Once the church withdraws inside its own walls, their influence with the community quickly deteriorates. Eventually, the building a church meets in receives more ministry than the community around it.
Is your church effective at ministering to the community that surrounds it? I would love to hear your thoughts on how it is doing so and on this post.