Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Know, Share, Retire - Part 6

Aldersgate UMC 
Aldersgate United Methodist Church is just down the road in Sissonville.  Like many churches, they have a food pantry and clothing closet for their community.  Brad Bennett, one of the pastors there, told me that they serve around 80 families a month through this ministry - and he considers this part of their evangelism ministry.  Of those families who are served, about two families a year come into worship, and everyone celebrates that.  Too often, I think, churches believe that evangelism is a membership campaign.  How many people can we reach so that they will become members of our church?  If that were the definition of evangelism, then Aldersgate's ministry would be a failure - 2 out of 80?  That's a terrible return for a membership campaign.  But that's not what evangelism is.  Evangelism is reaching people with the Good News of Christ, and I imagine that all 80 families, every month, have a better idea of the love of God through the Body of Christ that is assembled at Aldersgate.

Evangelism is not the program of the church that seeks to sustain the church's existence; it is the one of the very reasons we exist as a church at all.  Evangelism is not a task of the church that we can delegate to those who we feel are best equipped to do it, or even worse, a task that we set aside all together.  It is the mission God has given to us.  Ephesians says that we are given gifts by God "to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God."  (Eph 4:12a)

We live in a world much like the city of Athens, with idols all around us.  We live among a people who are searching for the "unknown God" to fill the spiritual emptiness that surrounds their lives.  As a gift of grace, we have come to know God and to understand the difference that God can make in our lives.   In the words of Randle Mixon:
 "What does it mean to be so fully rooted and grounded in God, so centered in our own experience of the Christian story, that we cannot keep from sharing it?  In the words of the old hymn, when we feel our faith in our very bones, "how can we keep from singing?"
Go from this place and let your words, your very life, be your song, so that everyone can come to know the Good News of Christ.

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