I realize that faith without works is dead. However, I have also come to realize that works without the Word is also dead.
Having grown up in church throughout the 70’s and the 80’s I saw the foolishness firsthand of how church programming, alternative religious events and multi-purpose family life centers allowed Christians to hide from the world…to become salt that never left the shaker. The idea of a church “emerging” outside the four walls of the sanctuary…to actually take the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world…revolutionized my Christian walk..and pastoral leadership. I began to engage in…and lead others in…taking water to the homeless, visiting those in prison, befriending AIDS patients and loving on the unloved. What I discovered through a very long process it that the people I reached out to…were changed for a moment…but not for a lifetime.
I suppose it goes back to the old saying that “If you give a man a fish…you feed him for day. But if you teach him to fish…he never goes hungry.” It began to dawn in me that what the AIDS patient really needed was comfort for an afterlife in Heaven once the disease helped to end their life. What the prisoner needed to know was that they were living out Galations 6:7…but John 3:16 could set them free forever. I came to understand no matter how much I loved on the homeless and the unloved…I was going to die…and they were going to die. Human love can only go so far…what they really needed was to know a Love that transcends time, life and nature. They needed to know a Love that was comforting but also just…that encouraged but also disciplined. They needed to know God. A bottle of water, a free meal or a hug wasn’t going to tell them about that.
I began to realize that Scripturally it is not enough for the Church just to emerge into world and today’s culture. Churches were not called to be welfare agencies, self-help groups, political protests or social justice activists. The Church was called to take the uncompromised Word of God into a dying and hopeless world. You cannot do that without opening up your mouth and proclaiming Christ. I agree that we must be doers of the Word…but we must also be sayers of the Word as well…or the world will never know why we are doing it.
As I stated before, faith without works is dead. Works without God’s Word being boldly proclaimed is also dead. There must be a new way of emerging for the Church. A way that does not leave the message quietly behind within the fours walls of the sanctuary. For if we have emerged without the Message…then we really haven’t emerged at all.