Last night, Draughting Theology, the real-life get together restarted for the fall. Fourteen of us gathered behind the bar at our local O’Charley’s to begin to discuss our topic for the fall: “Where is the Church headed?” The underlying question, it seems to me, is “is the Church relevant?” Does it matter at all? If your congregation closed its doors tomorrow, would anybody notice? Or, for that matter, if the Church (universal) ceased to be tomorrow, would it really matter?
We went back and forth on these questions, especially as they relate to the local community. At one point we found ourselves asking the perennial question of the relationship between mission and evangelism. Is the Church relevant if it makes an impact that nobody can see? Is the Church relevant if it doesn’t stake its claim on the impact it has clearly made? Is the Church relevant only if impact and evangelism are hand-in-hand? As someone asked last night, “What is our job? Is it to feed people or preach Jesus?”
Maybe it’s both.
Certainly, it’s both.
This all came to mind as I read the Epistle lesson for Sunday, as Paul articulates to Peter, as clear as day, what the faith of the Church rests upon, “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” He did it through social action: healing, feeding, caring, and advocating. And he did it through evangelism: preaching, teaching, and, most importantly, listening. Social action without the Gospel is a nice civic organization. Evangelism without service is seed strewn upon rocky ground, destined to be choked out by hunger or oppression. The fact of the matter is that Jesus Christ came to save sinners: from hell on earth and in the hereafter.