When a follower of Jesus embraces the “both/and” reality of the Kingdom of God it colors the work of evangelism with bold strokes of color and passion. The revolutionary mission of the church consists of proclaiming the hope of eternal life and heaven through a personal relationship with God through Jesus, and working to bring “heaven on earth” by following the teachings and principles of Jesus in everyday life. N.T. Wright in his book Surprised by Hope paints this word picture with bold strokes writing:
“When the church is seen to move straight from worship of God we see in Jesus to making a difference and effecting much-needed change in the real world; when it becomes clear that the people who feast at Jesus’ table are the ones in the forefront of work to eliminate hunger and famine; when people realize that those who pray for the Spirit to work in and through them are the people who seem to have the extra resources of love and patience in caring for those whose lives are damaged, bruised, and shamed, then it is only natural to speak of Jesus himself and to encourage others to worship him for themselves and find out what belonging to his family is all about but it is also natural for people, however, irreligious they may think of themselves as being, to recognize that something is going on that they want to be a part of.”
As I read these word pictures, my mind is draw back to the pages of the book of Acts. In a sense, Wright has captured the spirit and the urgency of the early followers of Jesus who were not shackled with hundreds of years of tradition. Their movement was a movement of the heart, and the hands. They literally were a people who turned the world upside down in one generation.
I loved the statement: “it is also natural for people, however, irreligious they may think of themselves as being, to recognize that something is going on that they want to be a part of”. This allure of the gospel-living has been lost in many of our churches and in our personal lives. Jesus had practically no problem drawing a crowd, because when the Kingdom touches real people in the real world with real answers you cannot keep it to yourself.
The historian Luke recorded the birth of the early church movement with this eye-witness description of the first “mega-church” at work. He wrote:
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)
Notice Luke’s observation that the early church was “enjoying the favor of all the people”. Granted this lasted for only a season because the threatened religious establishment role up to stop this movement—that could not be stopped because it was of God—but as the movement sweep the first century world the “people” were drawn to the good news in word and deed, only the established religious system attacked this movement, because who in their right mind would oppose this kind of life except those who had something to lose like control, and even some of them crossed over in time.
Imagine your local newspaper doing a story about the day to day ministries of your local church would this story be good news for your community? Would it be a boring story buried on the back page of the paper that even your members would not read? Would it be a story that would draw the curious next Sunday to check out what is going on? It appears when a church gets the “both/and” nature of the gospel right the word gets out!