“What sorts of activities do you think are a priority for your community?” I was asked today. It’s a good question and it links to the question from the other day “Is the local church able to meet the needs of the local community?”
My response was very simple. The start point and end point for whatever we prioritise in the community is the Gospel. In other words, making disciples is our number one priority and so the Gospel must be at the heart of everything we do. This does not mean that every event or activity has an up front preaching or teaching activity but it does mean that sharing the good news is always the motivation for doing something. Here’s why this is so important.
1. It helps us to know what to say yes and no to. Time is finite and so we need to prioritise our time. There are lots of things we could be doing and we could fill out time and our premises doing them.
2. It means that we are being obedient to Jesus’ Great Commission
3. It means that we understand and respond to the root cause need. If wewe ve advice, teach English, provide an enjoyable event for kids, give food etc but neglect to share the Gospel then it is like simply sticking a plaster on a gaping, open wound. The best we can hope for is to temporarily stop the bleeding. We need to respond to the real need which is each person’s heart relationship with Jesus
This is so important because when we ask that question “Can the church meet the need of the local community” and we start to list problems like unemployment, drugs, alcohol, homelessness, housing etc. then we can get trapped into thinking that meeting the need means fixing all of those things. That’s when we become well and truly overwhelmed. There’s no way we can do all that. So to be reminded that our primary responsibility is to make disciples and feed them with God’s Word is important.
This does not mean that Christians shouldn’t engage in things that are about providing practical help and support. Indeed members our church do engage in these things. Indeed, the more that we have put the emphasis on Bible teaching and evangelism, the more we have seen in terms of social engagement. However, these things are primarily about living godly lives not about the duties of the church.
This truth is liberating -and I think is part of the reason why when you get this focus right that you see more examples of love in action not less. It means that if there is a particular practical need in our area and in our church community there are people with the gifts and resources to respond to it, then they have the liberty to use their gifts for good. At Bearwood, we currently are blessed with a number of people who enjoy teaching English as an additional language and we happen to have been provided with three fantastic venues for ESOL classes. We don’t currently have the people or resources to offer debt counselling, so we don’t. Because we are not under a duty to do any of these things there is not guilt involved. Also even with the things that we can do, we are freely able to put those constraints in place. Sure, we could fille very room with additional ESOL classes but we don’t. We could run toddlers play and stay sessions every day but we don’t.
The thing we do prioritise is making sure that our resources, time and energy are focused on sharing the invcredible good news of the Gospel.