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Mission, evangelism and social action – part 5

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35)

"May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (John 17:23)

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matt 5:14-16)

The congregational life of the church has breath-taking potential.  We are on show to the world - even beyond this world! (Eph 3:10).  Jesus wants the world to look on and to say "The love these people display reminds me of Christ.  This love is out of this world. Now I believe that Christ came from the Father.  Praise be to God!"

If we took this seriously we would see that there is not 'fellowship' on the one hand and 'mission' on the other.  But in the plan and purpose of Jesus our fellowship is missional.  Our life together is to the end that we witness to the world.  We are a missionary body - a kingdom of priests. (Ex 19:6; 1 Pet 2:9; Rev 5:10).  The community of the church is not a community for its own sake but for the sake of the world.  This outward focus is constitutive of our life together.  Thus we are neither a 'holy huddle' nor a loose association of evangelists. 

These are the two errors we could fall into.  On the 'holy huddle' side we may invest in community life for its own sake.  And yet Jesus expects that the world will be able to see our united love.  On the other side we may neglect our brothers and sisters for the sake of mission.  Yet this is impossible if we've understood Jesus' commands above.   Loving the 'brotherhood' is missional.  Thus when Paul says to do good "especially to those who belong to the household of faith" (Gal 6:10) it is not simply an inwardly-looking nepotism.  The love of the Christian family is the shop-window of the gospel and has unparalleled magnetic potential!

The question in practice is how do we make this gospel fellowship visible to the outside world?  I have three suggestions, I'd love to hear any that you have.

  1. Churches should keep 'church' commitments to a minimum so that Christians can actually engage in the world around us.
  2. Home groups should be places where non-Christian friends can come along and see fellowship (over meals preferably)
  3. Church members should be encouraged to collaborate in efforts to 'infiltrate' clubs, sports teams, bars etc.  This way Christians can 'love one another' before the watching world rather than having guerilla soldiers go on individual 'raids.'

Any other thoughts on the practicalities of this?


For a sermon I just preached on John 13 which prompted these thoughts go here.


0 thoughts on “Mission, evangelism and social action – part 5

  1. Missy

    In the church I was converted in, we practice "strategic" christian living in the ways you describe. We have a lot of church commitments available, but they often occur in the form of personal hospitality in which we support one another.

    I think it is important to live outside your home, so to speak. This was very effective in my husband and I's conversion.

    I think some groups over-orchestrate and grossly target specific individuals or types of people at times, but I still think it is more important to live as a christian outside of the church than inside it. I think we should live as sinners inside of the church - by that I mean bring my sin into the light, not keeping it secret. The love of the brotherhood makes that possible.

    One thing I think church bodies should do more is to invite the non-churched community around them to participate in the charitable activities they do, or volunteer to serve in secular charities in the community without preaching.

  2. glenscriv

    Hi Missy.

    Love it! 'Christian outside', 'sinner inside'. Yes indeed. (Of course being a Christian sinner outside can also be a good witness, modelling the gospel of grace. But it's so much harder when there's all sorts of 'I've let Jesus and the entire Christian church down' self-recriminations!

    Charitable activities as (among other things) ways of networking with the non-Churched is also an excellent idea.

    Thanks very much for those comments. And well done for the blog award - much deserved!

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