For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
Luke 19:10

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lots of Good WORDS but Where Are the Good WORKS?

I wonder what Jesus meant when He said: “Let your light SO shine among men that they may see your GOOD WORKS and glorify your Father in Heaven.” Matthew 5:16

Victoria Drive Gospel Hall Assembly dispensing food in Vancouver.
What was it about the first century Christians that gave them such credibility among the pagans? Why did the Gospel spread like wildfire in the first century or two? Why did pagans shake their head in positive amazement over the people in the community who were called ‘Christians’? Why did emperors worry that soon the whole empire would soon be converted to Christianity?

Good Works for the Community to Witness – Did Jesus Really Mean What He Said?
The early Christians took seriously the teachings of Christ and the teachings of the Apostles about doing good works in their community; going the extra mile and showing love to those who hated them. They didn’t just stand behind pulpits and preach. Giving weight to their words was the credibility they had earned among their neighbors by their good works and compassion and acts of kindness. Read early church history.

We may be rich in our knowledge of Scriptural doctrines and thank the Lord, we may hold much truth. But we have lost a lot of ground in other respects. Good words and good works were never meant to be mutually exclusive. They were intended to go hand in hand in the spread of the Gospel.

The Old Lady’s Pointed Question
An elderly aristocratic couple who had become familiar with the assemblies, the preaching of the Gospel and many Christians in their later years invited two preachers to their high end home for a multi-course meal. Once the food had been served, the hostess set her utensils down on her plate and leaned forward and looked seriously into the faces of her two guests. She asked:

“Other than invite people into your buildings to preach the Gospel and to tell them they’re going to Hell if they don’t believe, what good works have you done in your community over the last year?”

A rather searching question for many of us and many assemblies too.

Ouch! Questions that Make us Squirm
When the neighbors, ten doors down from the Gospel Hall, lost their son in a car accident – what presence did the assembly of believers have? Did ‘it’ send meals to the grieving family? Did someone show up to pray with them? Were flowers sent on behalf of the Christians who meet every week at the other end of the street?
When the barn burned in the community, did the assembly swing into high gear and make hot chocolate and sandwiches for the firefighters as they fought the fire through the cold stormy night?

When the house that was for sale for months finally sold and the new family moved in, did someone representing the assembly arrive at the door with a welcoming care package to greet the new family?

Who’s Responsible? What’s the Plan?
Many assemblies have someone in charge of the Sunday School – the SS Superintendent. Not sure where that name came from but we use it all the time. We have another group of believers who are in charge of the kitchen – the head cook. For those who convene conferences, we have some organization on that front as well – a committee of sorts that attends to all the details. Many assemblies have a weekly or monthly roster for who’s in charge of cleaning the hall or providing snacks for the Sunday morning break.

Why do we have things organized like that? For the simple reason, if there isn’t a plan, it doesn’t happen. If no one has the responsibility, it rarely happens.

How many assemblies have a group of believers who have been assigned the responsibility of looking for opportunities to do good works in the community? Whose responsibility is it when a tragedy strikes or a disaster occurs to implement the fan-out list to call Christians to action? Do you have a response plan like that? Is there an annual meeting to review all the assembly-sponsored community good works over the past twelve months?

Why not?

Are We Known as Super Nice People?
Do the people in the community have a positive impression of the assembly? Other than knocking on their doors during a special Gospel effort – how have they seen or benefited from your corporate or individual presence in their neighborhood? When the neighbors think of the people that meet where you meet – do they say: “They’re nice people that go there. They are incredibly kind and caring. We don’t agree with their teaching but they are always the first to help in time of need – regardless of our religion or lack thereof.”

Hostility Will Increase
The environment in which we preach the Gospel is going to become increasingly hostile. We unfortunately add fuel to the fire of criticism by our own lack of credibility in the community. The Gospel message itself will never be popular because of the realities that people must face in their own lives. But shame on us if our lack of a kind and caring witness and visible presence in the community has added an inexcusable offense to the Gospel message.

If you haven’t already shared a story about something the assembly in your area is doing to build credibility and respect – good works that are helping to show the love and warmth of Christ to a cold world filled with hate, please submit your story so it can be shared on this blog.

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