By Steve Viars
If Jesus is still fulfilling His promise to build His church—redeeming men and women from the depths of sin through the glorious power of the gospel—how should we expect that truth to affect the dynamics of the foyer at the church house? At Faith Church in Lafayette, Ind., we are far from perfect, but I think it is fair to say that a Sunday morning foyer check at any of our campuses would be a rather vibrant, diverse affair.
You might see a business owner interacting with a pungent homeless guy dragging his suitcase with all his belongings behind him. There may be some widows talking to the creatively tattooed and pierced skateboarders they baked cookies for last week. A homeschool mom would be visiting with the two recovering heroin addicts she’s mentoring. Chinese students would be laughing with African-American engineers. A stockbroker would be walking in with the unemployed fellow he just picked up as part of the jobs training class they are working through together. A woman who just got out of jail would be drinking coffee with the guy recently diagnosed with AIDS.
We seek to be passionate about community-based outreach ministry. For us, that means being heavily involved in identifying, addressing, and meeting social needs in our community as opportunities to model and proclaim Christ. We want to be a place where redemption and rescue are deeply embedded in every aspect of our personal and ministerial DNA.
I sincerely believe there is such a thing as the evangelical social gospel. I disagree with the notion that a church must choose between living and proclaiming the Biblical gospel or addressing needs in culture. Our experience is that some of the best opportunities for sharing Jesus are found while compassionately meeting the needs of those the Lord has placed around us.
Honestly, my biggest worry is not people who have a different theological position than ours being involved in what they call city or kingdom building. My concern is churches who share our premillennial eschatology but have used it as an excuse to separate themselves from the world and are, therefore, struggling to effectively impact their communities for Christ.