Lately, I’ve been wondering about the “thing” that authenticates the mission of the church. I want to know what the church I serve can do to reach our community with the message of Christ. Was there some method we were missing? Some program to “bring them in”? What events might we do to attract people to our church. We have a beautiful building in a spectacular location with a view of ht Rocky Mountains.
Well, I thought an answer shouldn’t be too hard to determine because Jesus said it and prayed for it — unity among Christians who really love the way Jesus loved.
Then while studying John 17, the great “high priestly prayer” of Jesus, I came across this comment by pastor Bruce Milne and author of the Message of John (from The Bible Speaks Today series edited by the late John Stott). Milne’s comment quite literally “wowed” me.
[The mission] of the gospel has two hands. The ‘first hand’ is that of proclamation, the communicating to the world of the revelation of the FAther in the Son, climaxed by his self-sacrifice for the world’s sin . . . . But the mission has a ‘second hand.’ It is visible as well as verbal, relational as well as audible.
Evangelism is a community act. It is the proclamation of the church’s relationships as well as its convictions. The preacher is only the spokesperson of the community. The gospel proclaimed from the pulpit is either confirmed, and hence immeasurably enhanced, or it is contradicted, and hence immeasurably weakened, by the quality of the relationships in the pews. In this sense every Christian is a witness. Every time we gather together we either strengthen or weaken the evangelistic appeal of our church by the quality of our relationships with our fellow church members.
The biggest barriers to effective evangelism according to the prayer of Jesus are not so much outdated methods, or inadequate presentations of the gospel, as realities like gossip, insensitivity, negative criticism, jealousy, backbiting, an unforgivng spirit, a ‘root of bitterness,’ failure to appreciate others, self-preoccupation, greed, selfishness and every other form of lovelessness. These are the squalid enemies of effective evangelism which render the gospel fruitless and send countless thousands into eternity without a Saviour. ‘The glorious gospel of the blessed God,’ which is committed to our trust, is being openly contradicted and veiled by the sinful relationships within the community which is commissioned to communicate it. We need look no further to understand why the church’s impact on the community is frequently so minimal in spite of the greatness of our message. We are fighting with only one hand! (pages 250-51).
Like I said, Wow!