Last Monday was a sad day in the McGowen household… The Alabama Crimson Tide lost the College Football Playoff National Title game in a thriller to the Clemson Tigers. I stood almost the entire game. I shouted… I yelled… I cheered… and I nearly cried…
In the days that followed, everyone who crossed my path that knew my affiliation (ROLL TIDE) talked about what a great game it was, asked for my game analysis, and basically told me, the Tide can’t win them all as much as our team tries. Whether face-to-face or in the social media sphere, there were no shortages of conversations about college football and how the season played out. The more a college football fan the person was, the longer and more in-depth the conversation.
That’s what happens when we engage with people around a topic that is most important to them – from football to fashion, from the latest movies to tech trends – whatever lights us up we talk about… in fact there is really no such thing as an “introvert” if the topic of conversation turns in the right direction… I know because I am an introvert at heart.
In our first message series of the new year at FPC Lakeland, we began to tackle what it means to be the church… What is our purpose? What are the ends to which we are called? In our Book of Order it outlines what we call “The Six Great Ends of the Church,“and we felt like it would be appropriate to kick the year off by making sure people knew why we exist as a community. In addition to working through these “ends” in our worship services, we are also offering a discussion group using curriculum from The Fellowship Community which helps us articulate these purposes.
The first of the “great ends” is stated like this: the church exits for “The proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind…” In basic terms, the church and everyone in it exists to tell people about the good news about Jesus.
The apostle Paul articulates this purpose like this in Romans 10:
10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:10-17 ESV)
Of course, when we read verses like this we get hung up on words like ‘preach’ and think that the call to tell people about Jesus is reserved for, well, preachers. While that is certainly part of it, one of the Greek words translated “preach” is κηρύσσω (kēryssō) and means “herald.” A herald was more like a news reporter than anything else, as they were sent from place to place to tell people what they had seen and heard… nothing more, and that is precisely what the early disciples did. Quite apart from having deep theological education, the primary content of the message of the early church was only what the disciples had experienced for themselves… John, one of Jesus’ closet disciples, begins his first letter like this:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3 ESV)
To proclaim the good news of Jesus does not require deep theological knowledge or biblical expertise (though those are good things to pursue), it really just requires the willingness to report what we have seen and heard God do through Jesus in our lives. Yes, it’s important to understand that Jesus saves us from our sins for the restoration of the entire planet, but what is significant is that Jesus has done something in us. That the good news is not just good news to the world (which it is) but that it’s good news to us…
When the gospel becomes truly good news to us, then we will be more than happy to proclaim it to others.
PRO•CLAIM message from Vine’s January 15, 2017 service