The church's role in evangelism and community

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The church’s role in evangelism and community

Following Christ's example

July 8, 2024 -

Warm food is provided by volunteers to those less privileged. By DC Studio/stock.adobe.com

Warm food is provided by volunteers to those less privileged. By DC Studio/stock.adobe.com

Warm food is provided by volunteers to those less privileged. By DC Studio/stock.adobe.com

To read the first five articles in this series, you can go to these links:

In the last article, we discussed how worship is at the core of the local church’s pursuit in carrying out its purpose. However, if we stop with worshiping God in song and service, we’re neglecting an essential part of what he commissioned the church to do.

The second function of the church is evangelism, which correlates with the second point of the church’s purpose: to love its neighbor (surrounding community). And anyone in close proximity to us, regardless of their background, should be considered our neighbor. If a church takes this definition seriously, then they will seek to reach all people that reside in their area.

Subsequently, a natural byproduct of this is ministering to people who don’t know Jesus. We live in a society that is corrupt with division. And while Christians must uphold ultimate truth that may be opposite of what contemporary society believes, we are called to love everyone, regardless of how they respond to God’s commands. More is discussed on this task in a former article, but the church must minister to all people, regardless who they are.

Evangelism through presence

Local churches can only accomplish reaching a variety of people by being present in their community. Edward W. Klink is a proponent of this ministry approach and points to how Christ “entered the fullness of creation and bore witness to the fullness of the gospel for the purpose of redeeming the world.”

If one looks at Jesus’ ministry, it was characterized by him going to people in all circumstances and identifying with what they were going through. He made a constant effort to seek those who needed help, healing, and salvation.

Moreover, this tactic is demonstrated when he sends out the twelve disciples (Matt. 10:1-15, Mark 3:13-19, Luke 6:12-16). It is also conveyed in the parable of the Lost sheep. Consequently, Klink advises that “The church, as the body of Christ, must follow the example of Christ by dwelling with and among the place it serves.” James Davison Hunter agrees with Klink and exclaims that “The church is to go into all realms of social life: in volunteer and paid labor— skilled and unskilled labor, the crafts, engineering, commerce, art, law, architecture, teaching, health care, and service.” While it’s great to invite people to come to church on Sundays, the church must be more intentional when it comes to being present in its community. Ministry does not solely occur one day a week.

Ministry by service

How is the church to mirror Jesus in ministering to and loving its neighbor? The depiction of his sending out the disciples provides a great hint. The first way is through service, and Hunter picks up on an instructive theme in the Scripture that “the people of God are to be committed to the welfare of the cities in which they reside… even when the city is indifferent, hostile, or ungrateful.”

The Apostle Paul alludes to why service can be effective on even hostile and ungrateful people. In Galatians 5, Paul implores his readers to “serve one another in love” and then claims that “the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself.” This conveys the principle that service can be an act of love. When someone is served, they are given the impression that you care about their well-being. Coupled with the posture of kindness, this is a great way to show love.

An example could be providing assistance to community residents who have health needs. Societies across the world have tried to figure out the best way to conduct healthcare, and while it may not be feasible for local churches to take over the American healthcare system, we can still do much to serve those who need help. What if local churches did more to provide means and resources for people to get the healthcare they need? It seems that many struggle to get healthcare because of debt. Maybe local churches could donate money to homeless shelters or charities as a means to provide for those who cannot pay for healthcare.

Another example of the church serving their community could be holding a meal at the park of a local community and praying over individuals who attend. Some churches actually have a kitchen and room set aside where they cook dinners for the community and invite people without food to come and eat. Regardless, the church must find ways to make itself present through serving its neighbors.

Ministry by proclamation

The second way could be what many think of when they envision evangelism: sharing the gospel. Rick Warren attests that the Christian’s mission is to evangelize by telling “the whole world of Christ’s coming, his death on the cross, his resurrection, and his promise to return.” Telling the world about these things is a frequent command in the Bible, and this practice is rooted in the Great Commission. When people hear the news of the gospel and turn to Christ, that is what invokes a ticket to an eternity with God.

One of the best ways to proclaim the gospel is through sharing our testimonies: The stories of how God revealed himself and worked in our lives to the point that we were motivated to turn toward him. These stories start with the recollection of how we came to Christ and continue as we submit to him and watch him work in our lives. Church members must be avid in sharing their testimonies in connection with the gospel story.

Moreover, the church proclaiming the gospel to its neighbors has been placed second for a reason. We live in a society that often carries a negative view of Christians. And many have been on the other end of judgment from a Christian that creates a negative view of the gospel. But when someone is served, or cared for, they are likely to see the intent of love behind that service. If the gospel is then shared, such a person is able to see that it is love that motivates our sharing the news of Jesus. It may be conceded that not every opportunity to share the gospel works this way. The point is that when Christians lead with love and then share about Jesus, the unbeliever is able to see more than the fact that they need saving.

The challenge of evangelism: It takes a whole body of believers

Evangelism can be explained as the church loving members of the surrounding community by contributing to their welfare and ultimately pointing them to Jesus.

Is your church invested in this function?

Additionally, when we think about all that goes into the church’s responsibility to evangelize, on top of its role in facilitating worship, it amounts to an extensive role of the local church. And there is one more function to evaluate in the next article!

Hopefully, you are gaining the impression that one local church cannot carry these functions, comprehensively, on its own. That is why the role of unity in the body of Christ remains important. Local churches must come together in carrying out the body of Christ’s purpose.

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