Every once in a while reading through the Bible I come upon a passage that I’ve read many times over, but for some reason see it for the first time. A few years back I was working my way through the Gospels of Jesus and was struck by Jesus’ words in Luke 4:16-21 (quoting Isaiah 61): “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. (This is translated “gospel” in some Bibles and is the same word the Apostle Paul used when he said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”) He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:16-19 (NIV)
As Jesus’ ministry was hitting its full steam, John the Baptist sent a few of his disciples to check up on Jesus. “Jesus told them, ‘Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News (same word) is being preached to the poor.” Matthew 11:4-5 (NIV)
This isn’t just how Jesus lived; it’s what he modeled and what he instilled in his disciples.
“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick…So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.” Luke 9:1-2, 6 (NIV) Do you see the connection between the “Good Works” and the “Good News?” It’s not one or the other–it’s both–working together to open hearts and minds to God. It is both Redemption AND Restoration working hand in hand. It’s both hands of the Gospel reaching out to draw people to God.
Throughout the centuries the Church has played a major role in transforming communities and leading the way in social justice and equality through both Redemption AND Restoration.
• St. Patrick not only Christianized Ireland, he led the charge to end slavery in Ireland.
• John Wesley not only led revivals, he campaigned for prison and labor reform, built orphanages and schools, battled the slave trade, set up loans for the poor and gave away his money to the people in need.
• William Wilberforce pushed to abolish slavery in the British Colonies–and won in 1807.
• William and Catherine Booth began the Salvation Army in 1865. This was written about their ministry, “Probably during no hundred years in the history of the world have their been saved so many thieves, gamblers, drunkards, and prostitutes as during the past quarter of a century through the Salvation Army.”
• Christians have been at the front of establishing child-labor laws, schools, universities, orphanages, hospitals, aiding in famine relief, and rescue missions–all in the name of Jesus.
The church I lead has a great reputation in our community as a place where all people are loved and served–with no strings attached. Our favor has grown in direct proportion to the amount we have poured back into our city.
There is always a tension between REDEMPTION and RESTORATION in servant evangelism. Our goal is to reach the heart first and then reach the head.
Many of those who come through our doors on the weekends have already been ministered to by our congregation during the week. We are not striving to be the best church in our city, but we are striving to be the best church for our city.
Jesus spoke about service and evangelism when he said, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV) Our one desire is to live this out, not simply on the weekends, but every day of the week.
I believe that it is going to take incarnational churches to reach our generation with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. Today, whether we like it or not, we have to earn the right to be heard. At Sonrise Church we have found that one of the most effective ways to reach people with the message of Jesus Christ today is through real and relevant acts of service. True compassion can restore the credibility that has been lost to our essential message we share. To “tell” the truth, we must “show” the truth. It is the essence of the incarnation. Jesus modeled it. He served. He met needs. We can do the same–if we’re willing to give ourselves away.
Early Church Quotes on Charity:
“They love one another. They never fail to help widows; they save orphans from those who would hurt them. If they have something they give freely to the man who has nothing; if they see a stranger, they take him home, and are happy, as though he were a real brother.” Aristides, 1st Century
“And instead of the tithes which the law commanded, the Lord said to divide everything we have with the poor. And he said to love not only our neighbors but also our enemies, and to be givers and sharers not only with the good but also to be liberal givers toward those who take away our possessions.” Irenaeus, 2nd Century
“The most of our brethren were unsparing in their exceeding love and brotherly kindness. They held fast to each other and visited the sick fearlessly, and ministered to them continually, serving them in Christ. And they died with them most joyfully, taking the affliction of others, and drawing the sickness from their neighbors to themselves and willingly receiving their pains. And many who cared for the sick and gave strength to others died themselves having transferred to themselves their death…But with the heathen everything was quite otherwise. They deserted those who began to be sick, and fled from their dearest friends. And they cast them out into the streets when they were half dead, and left the dead like refuse, unburied.” Dionysius, 3rd Century
“These godless Galileans not only feed their own poor, but ours also; welcoming them into their table. Whilst the pagan priests neglect the poor, the hated Galileans devote themselves to works of charity, and by a display of false compassion have established and given effect to their pernicious errors. See their love-feasts, and their tables spread for the indigent. Such practice is common among them, and causes a contempt for our gods.” Roman Emperor Julian, 4th Century