It happened again.
I'm meeting with the "missions" committee of a local church. The church sends us a nice contribution every month, for which we are most grateful.
But, the church has a problem.
They are very devoted to "mission work" and they have limited funds. At least half of their revenue is devoted to missions. Their challenge is how to define what qualifies as legitimate mission work.
We spend almost two hours together.
I review, explain, show and discuss all that we are up to among some of the poorest folks and neighborhoods in Dallas. I talk about health care services, food distribution, employment training, the Central Dallas Church, legal services, housing development, work among youth who age out of the foster care system, the summer lunch and reading program, our after school academies, the list gets almost unmanageable as I go over it.
Then at the end of our session the question, "Larry, do you do evangelism? Do you have a method for sharing the gospel as you do you work?"
A discussion follows during which I attempt to make the case that the gospel is best revealed in the context of authentic responses to the pain and difficulty of suffering men, women and children. At the end of the conversation I want to ask these sweet people, "How much of the money that you spend on Sunday mornings is really evangelistic?" but I don't.
It is very frustrating to me to engage in discussions like this. From my perspective such conversations are a huge waste of time.
Cutting to the chase let me say this to church folks who are struggling with this very artificial distinction:
. . .stop talking about being redemptive, bring redemption;
. . .stop talking about salvation and insert a saving moment into the life of just one struggling person;
. . .stop preaching a message of reconciliation and become reconcilers;
. . .stop worrying about your message and live a message that produces hope.
I could go on, but I'll stop here.
I am convinced that things of the spirit that turn out to be eternal will always begin rooted in the here and now of the pain of people whom God hears, acknowledges and cares about. The church needs to save its breath and act redemptive.