For those who may be unaware, we are studying the idea of pursuing an “organic outreach” into our community, here at Cornerstone Bible Fellowship Church. We’re pursuing the idea of a less program/event focused evangelism and outreach and embracing a plan that sees church members building relationships with the unchurched in their midst for the purpose of sharing the Gospel. As the basis for our study, we’re using Tim Chester and Steve Timmis’ excellent Everyday Church. Using 1 Peter as a model for us to consider ourselves as loving, holy people living on the margins of society, they are challenging our thinking on how best to reach out to the world around us. In it, they have an extended quote by Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City. I want to share it with you:
Unlike models that call for a transformation of culture or that call for a Christendom-like alliance of church and state, Peter expects the gospel to always be highly offensive, never completely embraced or accepted by the world. This is a caution to those evangelicals and mainline Christians who hope to bring about an essentially Christians culture.
And unlike models that call solely for evangelism and are highly pessimistic about influencing the culture, both Peter in 1 Peter 2:12 and Jesus in Matthew 5:16 expect some aspects of Christian faith and practice to be highly attractive in any pagan culture, influencing people to praise and glorify God. (pp. 52-53).
The message here friends is that we need to strike a balance in thinking about how we reach out with the Gospel. Certainly the Scriptures know nothing about an alliance between State and Church and our efforts to force people to embrace our Christian beliefs and morals will never result in Gospel transformation. In fact, only Gospel transformation will ever result in people embracing our Christian beliefs and morals. To expect people to think and act like us even though their hearts are not regenerated is frankly, ridiculous. We need to change hearts first, and change laws second.
But, there is certainly something about who were are as Christians that will be attractive to the unchurhced, and rightly so. We are a people of brotherly love showing people there is a family available to them. When relationships break down all around them, there is hope and a home available to to them in the church of Jesus Christ. So, certainly by influence of our good works and love, people may embrace us as change agents in a culture of pagans, because they want something different.
The key is, to be that difference. People who love and serve the unchurched around us, not with the goal of positive change in the world around us, but for people to find the church attractive, so they will give us a Gospel hearing. We are also to be people of holiness, not just so we can drive our nation to embrace Biblical morals that they don’t really believe, but that the unchurched see us as people of conviction that are different in that we do not embrace the paganism of the world. The balance is that we do BOTH, not just one. Loving and holy. That’s how we will create opportunities for people to be drawn to the church and to the message of hope we have!