One story in the gospels that always catches my attention is that of the paralyzed man in Mark chapter 2. Jesus is preaching to a group of people crowded into a small home in Capernaum. Four men approach the house, carrying a paralyzed man on a stretcher. When they see that they can’t even get close to the front door, they decide to climb on the roof, make a hole, and lower their friend down to where Jesus was teaching.
Jesus notices the great faith of those men on the roof and decides to help their friend. He looks at the man and says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
How would that scene have played out in most churches today? Some would have been irritated at the interruption to a well-attended event. Others would have quickly dispatched a team to repair the damage to the roof. I suspect that most would have wanted to tend to this man’s physical needs by procuring a wheel chair or arranging for advanced medical treatment.
How many of us would have placed a priority on the sin in the man’s life? How many would have broached that subject at all?
There was a time in the history of the Restoration Movement where we had little to offer to the world outside of a presentation of the gospel. We wanted to talk about getting saved and being a member of the church, or we didn’t want to talk to people at all.
The pendulum has swung, and now we often offer everything but the good news. We bring in our neighbors to help with their finances, improve their marriages, entertain their kids, and share a meal together. We share with them all we’ve learned about living a better life; rarely do we talk to them about eternal life. If we’re not careful, we’ll find that people can visit our churches for months and months and never learn how to have their sins forgiven.
We must never forget that the unique mission of the church is to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Secular non-profits can feed the hungry and house the homeless. They can give family seminars and financial training. They can even provide community and fellowship. But only the church has the words of eternal life. Only God’s people can tell of Jesus sacrifice and what it has done for us.
We need to be ministering to those around us, providing for their physical and emotional needs as best we can. But we must never forget that the greatest need people have is the need for a Savior. The best news they will ever receive are the wonderful words: “Your sins are forgiven.”
- Make sure that as many members of your church as possible know how to present the basics of the good news. They need to know how to talk about Jesus and not just about your congregation. They need to be able to explain why we need a Savior and why Jesus is the Savior we need.
- Identify the gifted evangelists in your congregation. Some people have a special gift for spotting needy people and inviting them to come to your church. Others have the welcoming spirit that can make those people feel a part when they visit. The gifted evangelists know how to respond when someone says, “What do I need to do to be saved?” Identify these people and let your members know that they are available to help teach outsiders about God’s salvation.
- Encourage your preacher to offer an invitation. It doesn’t have to be every sermon, but on a regular basis the preacher should let people know that God’s good news calls for a response. Outsiders should be given a chance to talk with someone about their situation, and the moments right after a sermon are a great time for that. You can invite them to the front of the auditorium, to the back, or to a room off to the side. Just make sure that people hear once in a while that they are being invited to respond to God.
- Celebrate evangelism in your congregation. Make sure that new converts are identified and welcomed. Recognize those that were involved in reaching out to these people. Let your members see that this is important to who you are as a congregation.
People need a Savior. They need the gospel. They need to know that their sins can be forgiven. And we’re the ones God has chosen to make sure they hear that good news.