A great theme to be sure. But I think many of us in the church are a bit conflicted on how to show those around us that love.
To some, showing love means sharing the Good News of the Gospel—”how can I love my neighbor if I don’t tell them about Jesus and how He came to save us from our sin?”
To others, showing that love is more about serving others and social concerns—“how can I love my neighbor if I don’t give water to the thirsty, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless?”
Both are right.
Yet many churches strive to excel in one of those areas and often ignore or fail at the other.
This last weekend I was privileged to participate in a weekend outreach at a church that struck a balance between the two… and in my opinion did it very well.
The church was Crossroads Tabernacle in Ft. Worth, Texas. They decided to reach out to the community around them, targeting people in the more needy communities. They canvassed the communities, distributing flyers announcing the weekend services and promoting the special services featuring an actor performing a one-man show (yep, that would be me).
I have been featured at outreach events before… and it is humbling to admit it… but I am not much of a draw. People who don’t normally attend church are not motivated to go see a show with some “Christian Actor Guy” that they have never heard of.
It takes something greater than that to get people to respond… and this church found it. The answer? A free turkey!
In order to get the turkey, you needed to call and reserve it and agree to come to the church to pick it up. The turkeys would be distributed after the services so you needed to attend the service and see the performance in order to get your turkey.
Call it a gimmick if you like, but it worked. The church had between 300-400 reservations for turkeys for the weekend. Both services were packed.
The church purposed to make sure the people visiting felt welcomed and I was impressed with the spirit of the congregation. This was not just one pastor’s vision—it was obvious to me the entire church shared the vision to reach out to the community. An hour before the service the members of the church gathered to pray for those who would be attending.
The church also purposed to make sure that nothing was required or expected of their visitors except to show up. An offering was received, but with explicit instructions that this was for members only… “please DON”T give” was the message to guests. Guests were encouraged to submit prayer requests, however, and many did.
The pastor had requested that I present something with a clear presentation of the Gospel and so I chose to present Encounters, a drama on the life of Christ. The play was done as the “sermon.” The audience was one of the most responsive I have had in a worship service setting. There was laughter, applause and profound “hmms” coming from the audience. I am sure that many were surprised that the “message” would be presented in a format that was entertaining as well as meaningful.
After the play the pastor gave a simple invitation to receive Christ and at both of the services several came forward for prayer. Bibles were given away to anyone who wanted one and I don’t think they had any Bibles left to give away a the end of the second service.
It was a very impressive weekend. This congregation found the balance. They served the needy and fed the poor. They shared the Good News of Jesus and love for all people. They let the community know that there is a church in the neighborhood that cares and showed that in a tangible way.
I believe there are people in that neighborhood who can say “we know they are Christians by their love.”
“We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand
And together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love”