Archive for the tag “Gospel”

At-risk children central to church’s Gospel task

city lifeTobin Perry writes at Baptist Press about City Life Church in Wichita, Kansas, which pursues a vision of seeing the gospel “transform everything — ourselves, our church, our city and the world.”

… It begins in Wichita, where more than 600,000 people live in the metro area. [The church’s website says] “We believe church-planting can reach the darkest corners of our city for Christ. City Life is committed to … send out gospel-driven, city-focused people to declare and demonstrate the gospel to the people of our city.”

At-risk children are a key part of that commitment, with at least 50 City Life members involved in various aspects of outreach to families in crisis; 15 families are either licensed for foster care or in the process of being licensed.

Whether bringing children from troubled families into their homes or mentoring broken families toward healing, church planter Casey Casamento acknowledged it’s tough and often messy work.

Some parents want little to do with mentoring. Others struggle to make changes that will lead to their children’s return.

“We care for their children, but we also share the love of Christ with their families and extended families,” Casamento said. Referencing a 19-year-old man whose child was put into the care of a church family, Casamento said both the man and his mother now attend City Life Church.

“Ultimately, we do this for the sake of the Gospel,” said Casamento, a Wichita native. “We exist to bring glory to God and for the good of our city.”

Casamento started City Life Church in 2011 after 12 years in youth ministry, the last six in Wichita. His involvement in local community groups opened his eyes to the city’s physical and spiritual needs.

“I didn’t know what that burden meant back then, but I just knew that I had a huge burden for Wichita,” Casamento said. “So when I felt led to plant a church, I knew that it was in this city.”

Wichita, which has grown by nearly 12 percent since 2000, isn’t hostile to the Gospel. But with more than half of the residents uninvolved in any religious group, Casamento sees a high level of spiritual apathy.

“We have to go to them and build relationships with people in the city,” he said. “It takes time to reach someone for Christ. They need to trust you and see that you love them.”

In planting the church, Casamento developed a core team with weekly vision meetings and Bible studies. City Life now averages between 400 and 500 in attendance and has baptized 100 in two years.

The church now meets in the historic Orpheum Theater in downtown Wichita. Casamento believes the iconic location has been a draw for people who wouldn’t normally attend church. But the church’s main focus isn’t where it meets but mobilizing members to become missionaries where they live.

“Our vision is for those in our church to understand that we have the Gospel and now we have a responsibility to carry that Gospel out into our city — to exemplify the Gospel through good deeds, to be — as it says in Matthew 6 – ‘a city on the hill,'” Casamento said. “But it’s also to communicate the Gospel, to know that God is leading us and calling us to present His good news to everyone.”

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Read the full text of this article by clicking here.

Learn how to help neglected neighbors, communities and children through the North American Mission Board by clicking here.

More than verbal witness, more than spiritual rebirth

feeding hungry man

Mark Kelly writes at kainos:

Presenting the Gospel is more than a verbal witness. People who know nothing of Jesus will understand when, in the power of God’s Spirit,  we do three things: tell the message, live like God’s children, and allow God to work through us to do his miraculous work in their lives. …

[You have] “fully presented the Good News of Jesus Christ” [when you are] living the Gospel before lost souls and cooperating with God’s desire to perform miraculous works of healing and restoration in their lives. You are called to live before others in a way that demonstrates both that you love God with “all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” and that you love your neighbor the way you love yourself. (Mark 12:28-34) You are called to demonstrate how to live in a way that honors God, in every aspect of daily life — to teach God’s ways to sinners, so they can turn to him and be saved. (Psalm 51:13) You are called to bring the power of God to bear on their brokenness so they can be healed and be made whole.

The Bible does more than tell us how to be born again; it also is full of teaching about how God intends us to live our lives. From the law of Moses, to the books of wisdom, to the teaching of Jesus, to the letters of the apostles, God’s Word speaks to us about many practical issues of daily life: how we work, use our money, raise our children, help people in need, stay healthy, and so on. The Scripture tells us story after story about God’s love for people that is so strong it can heal the sick, give sight to the bind, make the lame walk, set free captives held by the devil himself, even bring the dead back to life.

Read the post by clicking here.

‘The Gospel’ is bigger than you think

What if Jesus’ mission was even greater than what you have been told all your life?

What if his message held more radical implications for your life than you have been taught?

Would you want to know?

Would you be willing to listen?

Many, if not most, conservative evangelicals would say “the Gospel” is that Jesus’ mission in life was “dying for our sins” and his message was “You must be born again.”

As great as that is, there is more to it than that — much more.

Jesus’ mission and message were about justice.

This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah concerning him: “Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen. He is my Beloved, who pleases me. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not fight or shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally he will cause justice to be victorious. And his name will be the hope of all the world.” (Matthew 12:17-21 NLT)

Don’t you think that’s striking? This is Matthew’s longest citation of the Old Testament to prove that Jesus is the Messiah. He uses a quote from one of the best-known Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament — Isaiah 42. A clear echo of Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism, in which the Father declares from heaven that Jesus is his “beloved Son.” (Matthew 3:16-17) A foreshadowing of Matthew’s account of Jesus being transfigured before Peter, James, and John, in which the Father again declares from heaven that Jesus is his beloved. (Matthew 17:1-8)

And the passage says Jesus’ message was justice and his mission was to cause justice to be victorious.

Where’s “the Gospel” in that?

You would think the importance and uniqueness of this passage would make it the focus of many sermons. But of 138,000 sermons in the archive at sermoncentral.com, not a single one mentions the phrase “proclaim justice.” Those sermons that focus on the passage seem to place their emphasis on the gentleness of Christ in relation to the “weakest reed” and “flickering candle.” Many of them zero in on Jesus’ name being “the hope of all the world.”

All very important and entirely appropriate sermon topics — but how do you preach this passage without mentioning the phrase “proclaim justice,” without engaging the question of how this relates to our understanding of Jesus’ mission and message?

When I say Jesus’ mission and message were about ‘justice,’ I mean something very different than what conservative evangelicals usually think of when they hear the word. The Bible is the story of God making his glory known by advancing the kingdom of shalom through his people to all the nations of the world. Jesus came to deliver the good news that lost and broken human beings can be liberated from sin’s captivity to experience lives of wholeness and peace — then to pay, on the cross, the price of that freedom, and to prove, by his resurrection, God’s power to keep his promise of new life.

Many of our churches, however, have preached Jesus’ good news as if it is only about “getting saved” and “going to heaven when we die.” Many preachers and evangelists seem to think the church’s mission is to win converts, and then go win some more. Many have ignored what the Bible has to say about discipleship — the necessity of obedience, endurance, and perseverance in salvation. Even more church leaders never so much as utter the word ‘justice’ from pulpit or lectern, unless it has something to do with punishing evildoers.

We are utterly clueless about how the Gospel relates to justice, and we are loath to admit that “doing justice” has anything to do with being God’s people and receiving salvation in the day of judgment.

If you haven’t seen the connection between the Gospel and justice, then you haven’t yet understood either one.

Justice is the result of salvation. An individual is set free from the captivities of sin, and the Holy Spirit begins a process of restoring that person’s life to the shalom God originally intended him to enjoy, before sin enslaved him. The miracle of salvation sets off a shalom bomb in our lives. The shock waves reverberate throughout every aspect of the individual’s entire life — from his mental outlook and spiritual disciplines to the way he works and keeps his home. They sweep out into his relationships — through his family, into his community, and on to the rest of God’s creation. God appoints that person as an ambassador and assigns him the ministry of reconciliation. He is sent out, just as the Father sent Jesus, “to preach Good News to the poor … to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:17-19 NLT)

God’s justice explodes from our lives, driving us into the homes around us, the businesses we frequent, the alleyways of our slums, and the marketplaces of every last people group on earth. Ambassadors of reconciliation pursue peace in every quarter of life, confront injustice wherever it is found, and make it their mission to mentor others in how to live and share this abundant life of peace and justice. They will not just explain how to have peace with God, they will demonstrate to others how God’s people live in the world. The cycle of poverty and captivity — spiritual and material — is broken.

Like Jesus, the Spirit of the Lord will be upon them, and they will proclaim justice to the ends of the earth, until the day Jesus himself causes justice to be victorious — bringing down a new Jerusalem where God’s will is completely done on earth, as it is in heaven.

We wonder why more church members don’t “share the Gospel.” Perhaps it’s because they haven’t heard justice proclaimed.

Cross-posted from kainos.

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