How can a local church community reach out to its immediate surrounding community with the gospel of Jesus Christ, if its members do not live there and have no intentions of moving there?
As I gather on this Lord’s Day with brothers and sisters of my local church, I am encouraged and challenged by the large numbers of church members who have moved into the immediate community of the church so that they would be able to live as the hands and feet of Jesus, so that they could proclaim the gospel through building relationships with their neighbors. I am convicted of living where I live, on campus of Southern Seminary, without any intention of moving off campus.
So often I’ve seen churches who just plan programs and activities and just “wait” for people to see them there, waiting even longer for somebody — anybody — to ask them “why” they are doing these programs and having these activities. Without any plan to get the gospel to the neighborhood, and without any plan to proclaim the good news to the people who come for those “outreach” activities, such churches are left stagnant and un-growing, and even worse, less than a handful of people are added to their numbers yearly if any. The worship and sermons during Sunday Services lack Christ-centerdness and further lacks a clear presentation of the gospel in every sermon.
Church members don’t live in the church’s surrounding community, and even worse, they live very far away. As if such wasn’t bad enough, new young couples move out of the neighborhood instead of moving in, for their own pastor is not even an example of “reaching out by being there”. Maybe he preaches one thing (“Dearly beloved, let us move into the community!”) and lives out another (he lives far away from the church in another city). Such hypocrisy is not only a failure to be an example to the church body, but is completely unhelpful in encouraging church members to heed his preaching.
Further, parishioners argue that proclaiming the substitutionary atonement in every sermon and worship set is not necessary, because they assume that unbelievers already know that that is why the church exists, because they assume that believers no longer need the gospel after becoming a Christian. Little do they know that nonchristians and unbelievers are visiting their churches every Sunday, yearning to hear of the hope of a God who has crushed His son Jesus for their sins, looking for a gracious God whom they could put their faith in — One who is worthy to be praised.
If only those parishioners would know that the very thing that they think is unnecessary and hindering to the church’s ministry is the very thing that their neighbors desperately need: the good news of Christ and him crucified, a friend who would come next door and sit with them every week to hear about Jesus’ redeeming blood.