Greetings to all in the Love of Jesus Christ:
A few weeks ago, while heading to an outdoor jazz concert, I walked past a man standing on a box shouting to all passersby that we better accept Jesus or we were going to spend our lives in eternal damnation. I found myself cringing inside, somewhat frustrated because scenes like that are why most Disciples are afraid to use the word “evangelism” anymore. People sometimes say the Disciples are “the best kept secret,” in large part because we are so intent on not imposing our beliefs on others that we never even talk about our faith. Many of us have truly taken Jesus’ words to heart: Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them … (Matthew 6:1)
And yet, just a few verses earlier in the “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus calls us to be public about our faith: Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16) How do we reconcile these two sayings? Jesus tells us both not let anyone know when we are praying or giving alms AND to let others see our good works.
I don’t know about you, but I have often struggled to find the right balance. As a pastor, I wanted my congregation to know what was going on. During the week our church hosted a preschool, homeless ministries, 12-step programs, music lessons, dance classes, neighborhood association meetings, counseling sessions, and more. If you only come to worship on Sunday, you might never know that your church is engaged in all these ministries – unless I tell you. And we want people to know about ministry opportunities, do know how they can get involved, and to know that we are practicing good stewardship with every dollar given. But sometimes, standing in the pulpit and saying: “We do this, and this, and this, and this …” sounds like spiritual bragging, or like we think we get extra points in heaven by letting everyone know how good we are.
As we search for a healthy balance, it may be helpful to examine our motivations. We are not called to do good works in order to make ourselves look good. We certainly don’t need to do good works to win God’s approval or to earn our way into heaven. If we give to the church, work at a food bank, or spend the night with the homeless so people will notice what good people we are – obviously we more focused on puffing ourselves up than in shining the light of God’s love. But if God’s love is leading us to these things, we will find that generous living brings us joy. At such times, as other people notice our joyful approach to life, I hope we’ll be able to share with them the source of our joy. That’s evangelism, the Disciples’ way.
Dios les bendiga!
Regional Minister and President
We invite you to pray for the following congregations in the months of August and September. Visit our Regional Calendar of Weekly Prayers for our annual list.
26 – Coolwater Christian Church (Scottsdale) and Pastor Rick Gates
3 Anti-Racism and Reconciliation efforts (Reconciliation Special Offering)
10 Comunidad Limen Christian Church (Tucson) led by Pastor Pedro Ramos-Goycolea
17 Iglesia Casa de Adoración (Phoenix) led by Pastors Arturo and Janett Laguna
24 Glendale Mission and Ministry Center (Glendale) led by Executive Director Tiffany Fehr
31 Arizona Saints and Congregations that have come before us