This week, I’m publishing a series about the kind of “exercise” that helps churches remain (become) healthy. (If you haven’t read it yet, here’s the “introduction” post.) This series goes along with my series from last week called “A Healthy Diet for the Church.”
There are many different types of exercise which go above and beyond the normal things necessary for existence. This series focuses on three such exercises: 1) trusting, 2) giving, and 3) proclaiming. In this post, I investigate how the exercise of proclaiming is necessary for a church to remain (become) healthy.
For the last few months, our church has been studying the book of Acts. We have been reading and discussing one chapter per week, and we’re currently up to chapter 14. One thing that has become clear through this study is that those early Christians eagerly proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ wherever they were and to everyone they met, regardless of the consequences.
They did not proclaim the gospel because they felt obligated or because it was some kind of duty for them. They proclaimed the gospel because of the excitement and joy that knew in Jesus Christ. They knew the freedom and peace and hope and life they had in Jesus Christ, and they wanted to share that with others.
Thus, an exercise of proclaiming the gospel follows both from trusting God and from an attitude of giving sacrificially. Because they trusted God with every aspect of their lives, they were not concerned with the ramifications or consequences of sharing the gospel. Because they wanted to give everything (time and energy and talents as well as money) to others in order to help and serve them, they also wanted to give them the same hope and freedom that they had in Christ.
Often when we study the Book of Acts, we focus on the work of the apostles, especially Peter and Paul. But, when it comes to proclaiming the gospel, Luke also focuses on others, specifically others who were not apostles.
For example, after saying that everyone except the apostles (the Twelve) had been forced to leave Jerusalem because of persecution, Luke writes:
Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. (Acts 8:4 ESV)
Then, a little later, he says the following about that same group (who were not part of the Twelve):
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. (Acts 11:19-20 ESV)
Then, when Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch of Pisidia, they first proclaimed the good news to the Jews, then when many of the Jews rejected their message, they began share the gospel with Gentiles. What was the result?
And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.
Proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ to unbelievers was a normal aspect of the lives of these Christians and the churches in each city. Today, when Christians think about proclaiming the gospel (preaching), they typically think about preaching to the church first. This is backwards.
In order for the church to remain (become) healthy, proclaiming the gospel to those who are not in Christ must become a normal everyday aspect of our lives… but not because of some feeling of duty or obligation. Instead, like the Gentiles in Acts 13, it must flow from our joyful response to what the Lord has done and is doing in our own lives.
What would you add to my discussion of proclaiming as a necessary exercise to help the church remain (become) healthy?