I once had a pastor from the city say to me, “We are not concerned about the neighborhood and making any changes to it. We only want to make disciples.”
What kind of disciples are you trying to make, then ? If the disciples you make do not desire to see the neighborhood they live in transformed, then what is their goal?
These are the questions that have plagued me since that conversation. It is clear from scripture that where the Gospel is preached and sincerely believed, the city and culture changes too. Take this example from Acts 2:42-47:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
The new church, right out of the gate, had such a radical transformation that their community life evolved into an entirely different organism. Eating together, sharing possessions, meeting each others needs, worshipping together, and generally being loved by their city. It is safe to say that this church’s love for Christ was the root of their communal change and the transformation of their city. In Acts 19, Paul comes into Ephesus and the Gospel transforms this city so much that idol makers are going out of business:
For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”
Perhaps, this pastor, like some others, is afraid of delving into a social gospel, where only good works count. Perhaps, he is promoting a lifestyle where Gospel knowledge trumps Gospel living. Or, perhaps, he simply does not see the neighborhood as worth saving.
No matter the reason, where the Gospel is proclaimed and believed, lives, cities, and cultures change. It is that belief that leads us to Northeast and I am already eyeing a few businesses that need some “closed” signs handy.