Paving the way for the Gospel

By Andrew Munneke

We loved our first location as a church. It was visible, next to a hip coffee shop that everyone knew, and we made that space our own. There was one major problem with it.

We wanted to love and serve our neighbors, but there were no neighbors to love. A church in a shopping center might have increased our visibility, but it prevented Gospel intentionality. We wanted to be in a community that needed our presence, not just our occasional service. That’s because relationships can only be developed in proximity.

So when we moved to our new facility in a neighborhood, it was a very intentional move. The Hill Church has the desire to live incarnationally (read more about our identity here), and we felt that by moving to the neighborhood we were saying, “Here are our neighbors, and we are going to love on them.”

Right next door to us was a community outreach center. They do a lot of serving, but they are rarely served. We wanted to be the ones who served them and without asking anything in return. So we partnered with them and picked a day—a Sunday—for our church to come over, clean their facilities, and serve them.

That day we met a guy who was an atheist. He worked for the center, and he was really taken back and shocked that a church would actually serve them. There were probably 30 of us running around doing chores, and he was like, “Who are all of you? Why are you doing this?” It was such a revolutionary idea to him that we would give up our Sunday to serve them.

{ The community outreach center…does a lot of serving, but they are rarely served. We wanted to be the ones who served them and without asking anything in return. }

Interacting with him, that was the craziest thing for me: He can’t comprehend that a church could love their neighbors? This is something Jesus said that gets stringed and stretched and everyone knows it, but people are surprised when they see it lived out. There’s an issue and a problem there.

I mean, really, who wants to go pick up some trash? Transfer some data? But the impact it had on this man—it was a soul-penetrating.

Our actions broke through some hardness within him. Our actions led to him wanting to meet with us and talk. He had previously had a negative view of the church, but that encounter let him see Christians in a different light than what he had seen before.

If the neighbors around a church don’t know that the church is there for them and loves them, then I would make the argument of Matthew 5:13—the church has lost its saltiness. The whole salt analogy, the whole thing is overplayed, but if there is no preservative from decay in your community then you’re not fulfilling your role.

We balance between Gospel declaration and Gospel demonstration. Yes, we do need to declare the Gospel with our words. How can others believe if they do not hear? The right to be able to speak is awesome, but so is the ability to demonstrate the power of the Gospel.

I think when we go into it intentionally, not to serve for the sake of serving but to demonstrate the Gospel, we are taking part in what the Gospel will ultimately accomplish.

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If you went around and asked anyone in the world what the perfect world would be, most people are going to describe Genesis 1 and Revelation 21-22. They will tell you, “No more pain, poverty, widows, orphans, death.” There is an ache there.

If the Gospel tells us Christ is coming and that we will have no more pain, suffering, injustice, sadness, sickness, or death, then one of the most Christian things we can do is to live it—with our words and our actions.

We have this tension. We are called to serve, but not just make people comfortable on their way to hell. We can give them the Good News!

It would not be kind for me to simply give someone bread and feed their hunger. People like this usually have low self-esteem. They have been stripped of their dignity because they can’t provide for their kids or themselves.

If I gave them bread, I might make them comfortable for the next six to twelve hours. But what if I say to someone with a low self-esteem, “Let me give you something that is good for your soul. What if you are filled with so much dignity as a son or daughter of God that you will be filled with more than bread?”

I know I want to serve so that a Gospel conversation can occur. If I don’t, then I’m losing my focus. It’s a pull and push. The conversation with this man, who happened to be an atheist, would not have occurred if it wasn’t for the action.

If we really want to declare the Gospel, then we can by demonstrating it.

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