Reversing the Church’s Decline (4)

Salvation is not an escape from obedience, but rather it emphasises obedience, as well as sacrificial devotion and service. This idea of salvation without obedience was born out of pagan rebellion.[1]

Jesus’ ministry meant getting His hands dirty with people, for over three years. This was a challenging assignment for the Son of God. He was assigned to be with people, and it was people who later took His life.

A successful church has to be mixing with people in the community. Yes, the gospel involves words, but it also involves the actions of godly people, because words without actions are meaningless. When barriers get between the Church and locals for whatever reason, it quickly becomes ineffective.

Every church needs forms of community interaction to be effective; we’ve all got to be getting our hands dirty with people-that’s a vital aspect of Christian ministry. There are innumerable ways to do this of course, but it’s amazing how food can bring people together, because we all need it.

Stephen is well-known as the first martyr in the New Testament, but we don’t always make the connection between the facts about him. He was a powerful, confronting, miracle-working preacher whose ministry began through ministering to widows who were being “…overlooked in the daily serving of food” (Acts 6:1).

We have to begin with the blunt facts of life: people need food to live. When someone shows they can successfully provide what is needed to sustain others bodily, it logically leads to the establishment of credibility. Have they got what it takes to sustain me spiritually as well? Establish credibility with food: then go to the next thing, which is hearts and souls; lives.

It’s remarkable the emphasis placed on food right throughout the Bible, and what can take place around the meal-table, and we Christians shouldn’t underestimate this. This can be on an individual and family basis. Or else it can be when the church gets itself organised, opens its doors and begins to provide a meal or food to those who’d like it.

This sort of thing requires a core group of people who have a vision to work, and serve people, because there is a lot of work involved. But with some encouragement and individuals who will make time, it can become a wonderful opportunity for Christian service.

Of course, you have to procure the food, cook and serve it. Then you have to clean up afterwards, sort out the furniture, clean the floor and pay for the extra electricity. These are all the necessary nuts and bolts that need a core group of faithful workers to carry.

A local church has an activity each Thursday lunch-time, called “King’s Table.” They provide a 3-course meal to anyone who turns up, for free. They generally get 20-40 people who come for a meal, and of course they make sure they hear the gospel too. Most of the food is purchased very cheaply, and the food is generally prepared by church members.

I’ve gone along many times to help in the kitchen with doing dishes and serving meals to people. Of course, there is a lot of work to do in preparation and afterwards. Sometimes, I’ve been the person responsible to give a 3 minute gospel message when preparing to say grace. I pull no punches, but give it to them fairly straight and plain (but hopefully with love), stressing the fact that we are all sinners, and the necessity for repentance and faith towards God.

I think the gospel message is an essential component, and people don’t mind; if they did, too bad. Food gets them in the front door; it’s the bait on the hook, but the gospel message puts the whole thing in its proper perspective.

Who do you get? All sorts. Lots of poor people, a number of folk who are mentally deficient, along with people who just don’t mind a free feed. Sometimes, you’d be surprised who turns up.

What’s your church doing? If we want to reverse the church’s decline, it won’t be accomplished by a lot of naval-gazing. It will be accomplished by the power of God, and with the willing workers of the church, who don’t mind ministering to needy people, often around the meal-table. And let’s face it: there isn’t a person on the planet that doesn’t have needs, and everyone needs to eat.

God doesn’t want to receive us in heaven like some bunch of narcissists, with clean, unstained, manicured hands. Our lives should be affected by people and their problems, because we want to help people, through the gospel. One way to do that is by feeding them. It can bring enormous credibility and respect for the church. If we can really help society by feeding people, how else could they see us helping them? And that’s when it gets really exciting.

The vision of the gospel is not pie in the sky when you die, but the total transformation of society and nations through the transformation of individuals and families, by the Holy Spirit, through His Word. And it all begins, locally.

Conclusion:                                                                                                                              

The church is made up of people with pure, but imperfect hearts. But manicured hands, unstained by people? I don’t think so. Our Saviour’s ministry in John’s gospel began with turning water into wine at a wedding, because the wine had run out. His mother identified the problem, He knew what was needed, and He provided it.

Let’s take the opportunities that Father provides for us.

Anyone wanting to swim against the tide wants to find all the encouragement and help they can get. This article really does illustrate that homeschooling and academic achievement can easily fit together.

 

[1] Paul Michael Raymond, “Tyranny, Independence, or Liberty Under God,” in “Faith for all of Life,” September/October 2011, p.18.