Monday, April 18, 2005

Teaching Summary (4/14)

Rediscovering Church:
Being a Compassionate Church
Acts 3:1-12

What is it that the world wants and even expects the church to be active in?

It's not politics, that's for sure.
It's not the school system, either.
And it's definitely not the courtroom.

No the place the world expects the church to be is on the street. In the prisons. With the homeless. At the soup kitchens. The very places Jesus commanded us to go (Matt. 25). When we stay in our comfort zones and neglect acts of compassion, we not only miss out on what God wants for us, but we also miss the one area that the world will still respond to the church's impact.

There are countless strategies for evangelism:
The "go-door-to-door-handing-out-pamphlets" strategy
The "stand-on-the-corner-telling-people-they're-going-to-hell" strategy
Or the "be-really-really-nice-to-everyone-and-maybe-they'll-come-to-church-with-you" strategy.

Now, all of these options have their pros and cons. The only problem is that none of them is the strategy Jesus used. Sure, he was nice to people, he told them about hell, and he clearly laid out the truth to people, but the primary strategy he used to impact the world was to humble himself and compassionately meet people's needs.

So why isn't the church doing a better job at compassion ministry today? Are we afraid? Probably. Are we stuck in our comfort zones? Most likely. Plus, we're great at coming up with excuses: "He'll just use the money to buy more booze." "I wrote the check to the organization- it's their responsibility to get involved." "Ah, the government'll take care of it. That's what Welfare's all about, right?"

Wrong. The hurting in the world are the church's responsibility. Period. And we should never underestimate the reputation we will gain when the world sees us leading with compassion.

In Acts 3, Peter and John are on their way to the temple. They are willing to get interrupted from their prayer business to meet the need of a lame man. He thought his need was money. But Peter saw the real need (which was good because he didn't have any money anyway). He healed the man, and as a result, crowds gathered in astonishment. Peter then had the opportunity to point people to Jesus and many were saved. All because Peter and John were willing to show compassion to a hurting man.

God's heart is for the beaten down and the victimized. Jesus viewed his ministry as one of compassion. And acceptable religion is rooted in bringing comfort to those in need.

Here at Harvest, we are committed to reaching people through Compassion. We know it's tough to fight the inertia of suburban life and engage in the work of Jesus. But lives are changed and we are truly fulfilled when we are serving others and using what we have to meet their needs.


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