A Social Gospel
When I look back to William and I preparing to launch out into International ministry, both my heart and imagination were filled with images of preaching on crusade platforms, teaching in Bible Schools and praying for crowds. We looked upon a massive, hurting world and knew that Jesus was indeed their answer. We just weren’t exactly sure how to give it to them. But we thought we knew. And so we began …yet things began to take on a different form that we had previously thought as we continued to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in what ministry would look like for us. In Tanzania, ministering to pastors and leaders led to our eyes being opened to the need for preschools and church plants particularly in the Muslim slum areas surrounding Dar es Salaam. In Guatemala, helping to initiate a Bible School and give our time teaching classes there and meeting with pastors and ministering in churches opened up an opportunity to help administrate an entire hospital seeking to provide comfort and care to the people of the Peten. These were unexpected avenues for ministry that yawned widely before us and all we had to do was walk through. Yet each step of that walk continues to require much grace and much courage.
Today in a world that knows much of preaching and teaching via famed mega church ministries either heard about, read about or seen on TV, ministry can often be seen as most powerful and effective when a platform and a microphone are involved. I have been guilty of this very view. Yet there is a social aspect to the Gospel which many of us a believers have neglected and now we find ourselves right in the middle of it, seeking to bring justice and help and hope through education and healthcare….something 5 years ago I would have seen more as welfare teaching than gospel preaching.
Yet we cannot dismiss the scriptures which call us to visit the sick in prison and clothe those who are naked. We cannot deny the emphasis Jesus placed on giving a cup of cold water to the one in need. Often in my morning devotional times I am asking the Lord how I can love him more and seek Him more. I am hearing His answer more and more now through the scripture that reminds me that when I have performed these simple acts of justice and mercy for others, I have done it unto Him (Mathew 25:40). Physically demonstrating love for others allows me a tangible way of showing love for God Himself.
The Gospel is suddenly becoming much more substantial and material in my thinking than ever before.
These acts of human kindness are not merely done to lay up treasure in Heaven or to salve my western capitalized conscience. It is an obligation we all have as born again believers to the gospel itself and it is the message that began with the resurrection and must resonate into today- Behold, Jesus is making all things new!! God is using the hands and feet of his body to do so, directed and empowered by the promised Holy Spirit who resides within us.
So we will continue to preach and proclaim from platforms, from rooftops and from mountain tops. We will continue to go into the highways and by ways but when we go we must go with cups of cold water in hand. In fact, our acts of mercy and justice in this life now show that we are truly anticipating how all will be made completely right in the new heaven and the new earth. But we are rehearsing it now and the rehearsal matters.
Our work here, our time on earth, our growing in holiness and our desire for justice should at least anticipate the life to come where Christ will completely reign. “The kingdom of God is within”, Jesus said. We are learning how to get it out and give to the world. This is why we are spending much of our time in Guatemala helping Hospital Shalom to flourish there and be a help and haven for the people of the Peten region. This is why we will be in Africa this winter, teaching and encouraging pastors as well as touring the preschools and seeking ways to find training for their teachers and gospel centered curriculum for them to use.
Please pray for these endeavors. Most of all, be asking the Lord where he is calling you to distribute justice, mercy and cups of cold water this very day. This is our prayer as well.