Thoughts

I recently came across this article by Rev. Dr. Jeff Johnson from our denomination regarding how we reach into the community we are a part of.  I was challenged and I thought you might enjoy it as well!    - Pastor Bob
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About a year ago, I received a phone call from a producer of the television program, Nightline. She was calling me to talk about church life in America. At the end of our nearly hour-long conversation, which we both thought would last only five minutes when it started, she asked me to sum up in just one word the problem with the American church today. I thought for a moment and then said, “relevance.” It was a knee-jerk response then, but has come to be a deeply held truth by me today. 

For many of our churches, before we can ever really think of connecting folks who don’t know Jesus, we must confess, these
folks don’t even know us. Something has to be done to change that.  Our churches need to consider Service Evangelism. It involves short-term engagement with our community. These activities are intentional but sporadic acts of kindness. It is doing “good (God’s) deeds.” It is what we learned at the region’s biennial in 2010 called Outflow. The purpose of service evangelism is to get the church outside its walls and raise awareness of the church’s presence and purpose in the community.

The point of service evangelism is to begin to address our apparent invisibility and irrelevance. It helps us make initial contact between both parties (evangelizer and evangelized) in ways that don’t threaten or unnerve either. Too many of our churches have been closed up and closed off from our communities for too long. We’re not able to honestly engage people short- or long-term because we have no integrity nor rapport with them. Service evangelism creates the possibilities for eventual,  long-term relationships

Service evangelism is not going to change your church or community overnight. It is not supposed to. It is meant to change the church and change the way the church interacts with its community. It is the first step. 

In service evangelism you show up, do your thing, and head home within an hour or two. You cannot do that with the kind of needs addressed by Servant style evangelism. The discovered needs by rubbing shoulders with our community are deep and long-term human needs like abuse (of all types), homelessness, hunger, drugs, mental illness, education, literacy, poverty, family issues (like divorce), exploitation, and delinquency. Servant evangelism describes the efforts of God’s people to make a needed change in society, in both individuals and institutions, to alleviate conditions that hurt people and diminish their divine value. As followers of Christ, we have the responsibility to improve an individual’s lot in life in whatever way we can and address societal problems, even if people do not make commitments to follow Christ. It is what Jesus would have done.  It is what Jesus did. It is what Jesus wants to do through us.  Servant evangelism believes that by validating a person’s inherent
worth, that individual might become open to the inspired Word. When we touch the outside of someone (temporal), we also
have the potential and legitimacy to touch that individual on the inside (spiritual).

Servant evangelism acknowledges the presence of a problem and accepts responsibility to solve it. The church also recognizes the importance of partnering with community-based organizations, Christian or not, to address these matters. Our cooperation and collaboration demonstrate that believers are not just concerned about the hereafter of people’s lives, but also the here and now. Let’s face it. It is hard to talk about a home in heaven tomorrow when you don’t have a home here on earth to call your own today. Servant evangelism fully understands we cannot do everything, but it recognizes we can do something. 

So, how relevant is your church? If your church closed its doors tomorrow, besides those who are inside, how much would the
community at large miss you? Get out there and show your community you care.  Better yet, show your community Jesus cares.