Summary: A church has both an internal and an external ministry. We must be balanced and not self-absorbed.
A CHURCH THAT STEPS OUT
John Tung, 4-22-07
The church should pray for people in crisis situations. The church should also pray for people in non-crisis situations, but certainly we as a church should also be praying for people who are in crisis situations. And that’s the way it was with the very early church that we find in the book of Acts. When Christ ascended into heaven, the church, as it were, took over the ministry that Jesus had been conducting while he was on earth.
Now Christ has entrusted his disciples to do the preaching, the teaching, the shepherding, the praying, the healing. Now that Christ has gone into heaven, he has given us the Holy Spirit, to continue to carry out the vital ministries that he began and which we as a church are to continue.
Surely this is what Jesus meant when he said, when he said in Jn. 14:12 (slide) “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
Jesus didn’t go to China, but our church has sent missions teams into China. Jesus didn’t go to the Cheyenne Indians, but we have sent teams to the Indians. Jesus didn’t go to Nashville or Philadelphia or DC, but we have sent in multiple teams to minister in each of those cities. Jesus didn’t tape any of his sermons so that people can listen to them on the internet. But we have uploaded sermons onto our website so people can listen to them from anywhere.
These are examples of the church being able with God’s grace to do even greater things than Jesus did.
In today’s passage, we also find the church able to do something that Jesus did. Just as Jesus reached out to the poor, the sick, the cast out from society, so the early church reached out to all of them.
If Jesus had met Seung Hui Cho, the student gunman who killed 32 students, and then killed himself, I believe Jesus would have ministered to him.
I believe Jesus would have seen that he was a loner, that he had no friends. That he had trouble adjusting to a new culture and language in America. That he had mental problems, that he developed an irrational hatred for people whom he saw as rich and spoiled. Jesus would have seen all that in his heart and asked him, as only Jesus could do, why do you have such hate in your heart? What are you so afraid of? Don’t you know that there are people who love you? Don’t you know that I made you and I made other people, and you should not murder? Don’t you know that I can heal people of their problems? Don’t you know that if you have pain, come to me and I will heal you? Jesus would have asked all these penetrating questions, and made sure that this young man did not leave until he faced his own demons and repented of his sins and gotten the help that he needed.
But we humans are limited and fallible and we can miss cues and signals that are sent by people in distress. And sometimes there are rules in place that prohibit us from doing more than we realize should be done.
But even in spite of all that, the church is here on earth to represent Christ and to carry out a ministry of teaching and healing in the world, and in particular, in the community they are part of. This is part of what we want to emphasize in a new series of messages on A Church That Steps Out.
In other words, when we think of the church’s function, we have to think of it as having both an internal and an external ministry.
II. Internal Ministries
First, let’s talk about the Internal Ministries (slide).
The church, as the people of God and also as an institution, has a responsibility internally in terms of worship, in terms of discipling, in terms of teaching, in terms of fellowship, in terms of inner support for one another who are in the church.
But it doesn’t end there. If a church only focused on internal ministries and neglect to also have an external outreach, it is self-absorbed, which is not what Christ was and which he did not want his church to be either.
There has to be both and a balance of both.
A church can also be so focused outwardly in the sense of only doing community outreach and world relief that it does not do enough to know the word of God and to instruct its own members.