Scripture: Romans 10:14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” 16 But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.
Observation: Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles, a “sent one” to share good news with people outside of Israel. How did Paul get from place to place, town to town, village to village? Most of the time, it was on foot. He walked. A lot. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” I imagine Paul verbally preaching in town squares or in the synagogues or other public places.
But we also know that Paul would often spend months, sometimes even years, living in community with a particular people, “peaching the gospel” not just in words, but mostly in deeds. Paul would physically embody the gospel to both the converted and the curious. It was evangelism via relationship over extended periods of time, growing disciples very much as Jesus had done with his own disciples. As people spent time with Paul, hearing his teaching and imitating his ways of life, they came to KNOW the grace and mercy of God through Christ Jesus. They belonged, then they believed.
Application: Lots of Christians get hung up on the idea our sharing their faith, mostly because we have a very narrow understanding of what that means. We imagine the obnoxious street preacher getting into peoples’ faces yelling “Turn or burn!”. Yuck! No thanks!
While there is a place for public verbal preaching, most of us are not called to that kind of evangelism. Such a ministry requires particular spiritual gifts that not everyone has. However, EVERYONE has the capacity to love on someone else, to demonstrate grace and mercy in a world painfully short of both. And the best ministry vehicle ever devised for sharing faith in this way is the small group of 3-12 people doing life together on a consistent basis.
The church I lead as senior pastor just celebrated its 25th anniversary this past Saturday and Sunday. It was an incredible weekend filled with stories of God’s grace poured out over many years. I loved it! Yet while I was taking it all in, I was thinking that the next 25 years will require us to be quite different. Whereas we have historically relied heavily on church programs and services, conducted on church property, led by church staff, the future calls us to be the church more like Paul. More like Jesus himself. More organic than organized. Led by laity more than clergy. Conducted out in the community rather than “at church”. Requiring more “demonstration” than verbal “proclamation”. Giving space for people to belong, then believe.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, show us the way. Amen.