Couldn’t have said it better…

“I stand at the baggage claim. Again I am in an airport, again I am exhausted. I think about returning home to my family, my friends, and my ministry. It occurs to me that I have now been in ministry full time for seventeen years. As the bags pass by me, I think of all the countless young adults who have passed through my life during my years of ministry. I think to myself that I cannot do it anymore. I think of the hundreds if not thousands of coffees with young adults deconstructing their faiths, I think of the countless hours spent with people in discussions, conferences, events, and seminars dissecting the Church, dismembering Christian culture, hunting down the elusive ideal of relevance. I think of the masses of people I have been in Christian “community” with, people who enter your life for a time intensely, who share their darkest secrets and brightest hopes with you. People you pray with, cry with, worship with. Then after a few months, a year, or, if you are fortunate, a few years, they then pass out of your life. Later you bump into them at malls, parties, or downtown. There is that awkward moment, when you realize that the embers of faith have almost died out. Then comes the telltale line “I still believe in Jesus, but…” People who want to hold on to the certainty of faith but who wish to have the freedom of the secular, who end up crafting their own version of Christian faith. People who are happy to live on the fence between faith and disbelief. People who unwittingly end up using you because at the center of their new mode of faith is the selfishness of radical individuality. As the bags pass by me the way people come in and out of my life, my gut years for a different reality, the rediscovery of an older concept of faith, one rooted in faithfulness and devotion. Yet such ideals seem lost in our day.”

Mark Sayers
The Road Trip that Changed the World

The Gospel: Seen AND Heard

“All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need. One of the ways that we are witnesses to the work of Jesus is by our loving unity and our generosity with one another. People can see that we are authentic Jesus followers when we love and care for each other. Jesus said it best when he said, “They will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” That kind of love is powerful and contagious.” Acts 4:32-35

One of the ways that we are witnesses to the work of Jesus is by our loving unity and our generosity with one another. People can see that we are authentic Jesus followers when we love and care for each other. Jesus said it best when he said, “They will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” That quality of love is powerful and contagious.

But it wasn’t just about their actions, but also about what they were proclaiming and teaching. There’s a saying that people (wrongly) attribute to St. Francis that says, “Preach the gospel at all times, use words when necessary.” There’s something beautiful about that but honestly I’m afraid many people like it because it relieves them of any kind of responsibility to ever talk about Jesus. If i’m just friendly, and I serve others, and I take care of people around me, they will somehow intuitively figure out that I love Jesus, or learn about Jesus through osmosis.

But that’s not what you see in the early church. What we see is a church that was boldly living out the gospel of Jesus to others in community AND courageously speaking the gospel of Jesus to others. It’s never been one or the other. Whenever we ere on the side of making the gospel ALL about verbal proclamation OR ALL about service, we are shortchanging the gospel. In fact, to try to separate those two aspects; living and speaking, leads to some real problems. One without the other is powerless.

We need both to be an effective gospel community that introduces others to Jesus.  What we preach and live is a holistic gospel. A gospel that the world can see, hear, touch.

The great power that accompanied the apostles testimony to the resurrection of Jesus was the power of a new life in the community, a new life that was manifest in sharing possessions to meet the needs of others. Our words won’t make much sense if there isn’t a foundation of loving care and service. But our service and loving care won’t mean a lot either if it’s not coupled with teaching why we love one another.

In view of this seemingly rare combination of social concern AND proclamation of the Word, it’s no wonder that Luke goes on to say, “and much grace was upon them all.” Acts 4:33