When my husband Paul and I set out for Asia in 2005, our dream was to carry the Gospel to a dark country, shine the Light of Jesus in that darkness, and encourage those we would meet to become believers in Christ. By believers we meant followers—Christ’s followers.
No one on our team embraced the goal of helping others become Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, or any other denominational label. We would have all called ourselves Evangelical—some even Fundamental. But the brevity of a short term mission required that we present the Gospel in its basic form—reliance on Christ for forgiveness of sins and for eternal life and faithfully following Him.
At home, we may have found that our doctrines and practices divided us. In a strange land, our faith in Christ and our common goals—to show Him to others and encourage them to follow Him—united us. There, we pointed to the truth of Christ—to what unites us as Christians. At home in our individual churches, belief is often about what divides us—how we are different.
In this narrowed view, the differences make my group right and yours wrong—my group better, your group bad—my group, heroes of the faith—yours, villains. We all claim to follow Christ. But instead of loving one another, we act like competing siblings telling tales on each other. Ministry shrinks when we separate ourselves.
Our God-given assignment is to deliver His message of grace through Jesus Christ to all, acting as individuals and in unity with His other followers. We are not just supposed to speak. We are also supposed to act. God leads us as individuals, personally guiding us into individual ministry providing opportunities for us to glorify Him. As I journey through each day, I can choose to follow or not to follow His leading in meeting the needs of others as they come before me.
God steers us as well into communities to work in our local church bodies to meet the needs of others as they come before us—needs individuals cannot adequately meet. He leads us to act corporately within His Body, the capital ‘C’ Church. He expects us to join His other followers outside of our smaller church bodies to be the builders of our own times—to build today for tomorrow.
American Christians have been hoping for social reform. Spiritual awakening precedes social reform. Awakening can’t happen if we won’t love each other.
By coming together as Christ followers, we can make all the difference for people in our communities. Those efforts can change hearts, homes, communities, our nation, and perhaps the world. We will not be able to cure all the ills of the world, to change every heart.
If we can only change one heart, that one heart will elate Heaven.
“There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15: 10b).