Gospel-declaration (ministry) and gospel-demonstration (mission) flow together and support one another.
By Anthony Mullins, US Regional Director
During my time as pastor of Grace Communion Hickory, my wife, Elizabeth, (who served as our Love Avenue champion) would give a “Neighborhood Update” talk to the congregation during the Sunday worship gathering. It was a chance for her to share how we as individuals and collectively as a church could be a blessing to our surrounding community and neighbors. One Sunday she caught my attention with this profoundly thoughtful statement, and I paraphrase, “Yes, we want to give bread to those who are hungry, but we also want to alert them to the Bread of Life.” Amen! As a congregation, we certainly wanted to serve people who had immediate physical needs but not without alerting them to Jesus, the ultimate provider. It was our attempt to be gospel-focused with our participation in God’s mission to the world.
Since we have been sent in the power of the Holy Spirit to bear witness to Jesus and his emerging kingdom (Acts 1:8), we would do well to be vigilant to remain gospel-focused in our missional efforts. I recently read the book The Shape of Practical Theology in a Grace Communion Seminary course. The author, Ray S. Anderson, made a bold statement when he wrote, “There are forms of ministry which appear to be comforting and even reconciling, but if they do not reveal Christ, these ministries are not of God.” From the author’s perspective, God has decisively acted in Jesus Christ for our salvation and continues to act in the world, by the Spirit, and through his witness-bearers (you and me) by revealing Jesus Christ in word and deed. There are many therapeutic efforts and random acts of kindness being done in the world, but Anderson argues that unless they point to Christ, it is ultimately not God’s work. That’s a challenging thought for me because I do believe being gracious and kind to people is an act of God, and yet I appreciate Anderson’s assertion to remain gospel focused.
What does it mean to be gospel-focused in our missional efforts? I came across the following quote recently which effectively articulates a gospel-focused approach.
The gospel is not an idea.
It is not a belief.
It is not a favorite verse.
The gospel does not live in your church.
It cannot be written down in a simple message.
And it is not the sinner’s prayer.
The gospel is not a what.
It is not a how.
The gospel is a Who.
The gospel is literally the good news of Jesus.
Jesus is the Gospel.
– Carl Medearis, Speaking of Jesus
Jesus is the centrality of the good news, so to be gospel-focused is to fix our gaze on Jesus, to speak the life-giving words of Jesus, to embody the mercy and compassion of Jesus; it’s all about Jesus!
This is why gospel-declaration and gospel-demonstration flow together and support one another. It’s the word and deed, act and being together. So friends, let’s share bread with the hungry, let’s break bread with neighbors around our dinner tables, but let’s not forsake alerting people to the One who ultimately satisfies – Jesus, the bread of life!