Jesus discipled the lost, healed the sick and fed the hungry. Jesus demonstrated His love before telling people who He is. Without the works, He knew people wouldn’t listen to His words. Jesus not only modeled the importance of caring for the helpless and hopeless, but He and His disciples regularly touted that as the first step toward living out – and even proving – our faith:
- When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he still lacked after obeying the commandments, Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor.” (Matthew 19:21)
- When John’s disciples asked Jesus if He was the Christ, the evidence He provided was how He had served others: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the deal is raised and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” (Matthew 11:5)
- When Paul and Peter went their separate ways, Paul said “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.” (Galations 2:10)
- James 2:15-16: “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is that? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
- James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…”
Our faith is dead without action? The only flawless religion is caring for orphans and widows?
Understanding that, the apostles followed Jesus’ model – discipling, healing and serving the hurting and helpless. The early church emphasized that connection between compassion and evangelism – realizing people don’t care what Christians know unless they know we care. For 1900 years, churches didn’t try to “outpreach” Jesus – they became the local food banks and homeless shelters. They started most hospitals and schools. They were seen as the proverbial spiritual and charitable “center of town”. Church members gave knowing a significant percentage of their gifts would be poured back into caring for the poor and reaching the lost.
What changed in recent decades? Today, government and charities occupy the lead role in compassion. Churches play a minor part, focusing on occasional service events to “check the box” but often do more harm than good in the process. Look at the Facebook pages and websites of the average church in America – it’s all about Sunday services, classes, new campuses and sermons with little or no mention of serving struggling families in the community.
Why aren’t more churches and Christians making service and evangelism to the poor and lost a high priority? Why does local missions occupy less than 2% of the average church’s budget? How are pastors, staff and members blind to a message the Bible conveys so clearly?
5 Steps to Reconnect Compassion and Evangelism
Overlooking such an obvious, biblical linkage between Prayer, Care and Share required a fundamental shift in the definition of “church” and it’s biblical “customer”. Only redefining church as a “place” and members as “customers” (rather than as “the called out ones” or ”those belonging to the Lord”, the Greek and English meanings of the word “church”) could blind pastors and churchgoers to their responsibilities and obligations to lead the way in serving “the least of these”.
Therefore, the only cure is to reengage in personalized, intensive discipleship geared toward “growing” and “going”. Diving deep into the study of the life of Jesus will:
- Convince…members that they ARE the church, not a “customer”
“But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.” (Hebrews 3:6)
As the embodiment of “church”, reaching the lost and poor outside the “4 walls” is in their job description, not just the pastor’s.
- Confess…”break hearts” for those in need of help and hope
One pastor told me, “I’d love to have a church full of Nehemiahs who weep for the lost and poor in our community.” That should be our response too, but is it? You can’t study Jesus’ life for long without seeing His heart for those hurting and hopeless. However, it’s discipleship that convinces us to take on the attributes of Jesus. As we become more like Him, our hearts meld with His, and compassion begins to outweigh comfort.
- Coach…members on how to share their faith
With the shift toward treating members not as “church” but as “customers”, expectations for evangelism have been reduced to inviting a friend next Sunday – letting “professionals” handle conversions and discipleship. Frankly, most Christians don’t feel they have the theological background to do a lot more anyway – lacking both the courage and the words. However, as church members begin following Jesus’ example of leading with kindness, they suddenly have many more chances to tell people about Him.
- Connect…to opportunities to serve the church’s true “customer”
The best way to fully absorb what it means to be a disciple is to live it out. It’s rare that a church, at least one not using Meet The Need, puts local needs in front of its members on a real-time, year-round basis. Church leaders should share the stories of how difficult life is for persecuted believers, orphans, and single moms – then make them aware of what they can do to bring them help and hope.
- Coalesce…identify common causes around which to rally the church body
Once a church identifies pressing social issues, it has to decide (corporately and each as individuals) how it’s going to respond. As disciples, signing up for an occasional service event or mailing out a check is not the full extent of their responsibility to act. Without a compelling external cause, the Great Commission, unity and discipleship in the church will continue to suffer.
It’s Your Turn…
What would happen if you church fully implemented the Five “C” model? Would most members accept it, be excited or run to another church? Would the Church in America increase in growth, impact and influence if more Christians followed the Five “C”s?