Church Is In The World

When you come into a church on a Sunday morning, you think that you have stepped from a real world into a fantasy world. What do I mean by that? You pick up a church bulletin or newsletter. It says, there is singing practice, youth meeting, women’s fellowship. It hardly mentions anything about what is happening in the community, society, state, nation and world. The faith preached in our churches does not relate to the world in which our church members live.

Church members come from the real world to the Sunday service with problems, issues and questions. When they leave the service after the benediction, they again enter into that real world. Our church members are wrestling with a host of issues and problems – rise of prices of basic commodities like rice, dal, sugar, unemployment, poverty, sickness, family problems, failure of crops, corruption, injustice, marginalization, discrimination, increase of the gap between the rich and the poor. Rich are becoming richer and poor are becoming poorer. The sermons and ministries of the church do not touch these things.

The OT prophets like Amos, Micah spoke about the prevailing situation in the society. They spoke about the ill treatment of the poor, widows, orphans. They spoke against corruption in high places. They related their faith in God to the concrete, contemporary problems and issues in the society in which they lived. Their intention was to make their society a better place.

Where is the prophetic voice of the church?

What does the church service on Sunday morning mean in general to the congregation?

  1. It means many things. One of the things the church service means is hope. Church service tells congregation members that there is hope in this life, like Psalmist in Psalm 27 says, “I would have fainted unless I lived to see the goodness of the right in this life.” There is hope for this society and the world. There is hope that this society and world will become a better place to live in.

In order to tell that there is hope in this life, the pastor or the preacher should know what the concrete problems and issues that the congregation members are wrestling with. That means, you should know what is happening around. Then only you can relate your faith in God to these problems.

The gospels and the epistles in the NT were written to particular churches or Christian communities, addressing their problems and issues. The gospel writers and the writers of the epistles knew the concrete problems and issues. They related the gospel of Jesus Christ and their faith in Jesus Christ to their specific problems and issues. In this process, they narrated the life of Jesus Christ, his teachings and deeds. That means, they made Jesus Christ, the gospel of Jesus Christ and their faith in Jesus Christ relevant to their present life and context.

This is what we need to do in our ministry. Know what is happening around you. Know the existing problems and issues in the society, you and your congregation members live in. Then relate faith in Christ to these problems.  

You give them hope in this life. That God is with us in our struggles. God is still in control. God can and will change the present situation to a better one. You move them from the state of despair to a state of hope, from hurt to healing. 

2. The second thing is, through your ministry you encourage them to go back and make a difference in their community or society. To strive to bring a positive change in their society. Not to leave that world and not to pretend that we belong to some sort of fantasy world. But remind them that we serve a God who has come into this world through Jesus Christ. He cares for this world. He is concerned about our problems, the challenges and issues we are facing now. This God is with those who are striving to make their societies better.

Christians should be committed to the kingdom of God and its values of justice, peace, love and unity. We should live an alternate existence of love and justice, offering prophetic witness and voice.           

Anything Precious is not Cheap

Jesus in his ministry used parables taken from the day-to-day life of people to teach deeper truths. It is said that one-third of his teaching is in parables. In Mt. 13 he used several parables to teach about the kingdom of heaven/God. In verse 44, he tells, Kingdom of God is like treasure hidden in a field; it is like the pearl of great value. Kingdom of God is something of great value. One has to search for it. Jesus, in Mt. 6.33 said: “Strive for the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”

The content of Jesus words and deeds is the kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven. His Galilean ministry started with the proclamation of the coming of the kingdom of God (Mk. 1.15). His miraculous deeds were the indicators of the presence of God’s kingdom. In Mt. 12. 22ff. when Jesus healed the one who was mute and blind, the Pharisees said that Jesus did that with the power of the Beelzebub. But Jesus responded by saying that “If it is by the spirit of God I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.”

What is this kingdom of God? Mt. 12.22-32 indicates that bringing healing and wholeness to the body of the person demonstrates the presence of the kingdom of God. In this passage Jesus says two things that are interrelated: binding the strongman and the healing of the person. It is already said that the sickness was caused by the evil spirit. Jesus is dealing with the cause that caused pain and suffering in the person. Jesus is making right the wrong done by the demonic and oppressive forces.  It is this transformative action of God in the lives of people that is evident in the ministry of Jesus Christ. It is to this transformative ministry that we are called for.

However, it needs commitment, persistence and sacrifice. The merchant searched for fine pearls and when he found one, he sold all that he had and bought it. Anything precious is costly. Establishment of the kingdom of God and its values of justice, peace, love and unity is costly. It demands commitment, persistence (I prefer this word to ‘determination’), sacrifice (here comes the priorities) or “willing to lose in order to gain”. Jesus says that “whoever wants to be my disciple let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

To be instruments of God’s transformative action demands a conscious, willful commitment to the mission, persistence in the work, and sacrifice (willing to lose).

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