Summary: A challenge to match evangelistic effort with social concern in our world. Preached from an evangelistic perspective to an evangelical audience.
The Extract and Essence of Jesus Ministry
(From Harvey Conn - Planting and Growing Urban Churches) The house is for William and Mary Elliot, both in their sixties. Community residents for over forty-nine years, today, for the first time in their lives, they will own their home. Both are strong Christians. Mr. Elliott in particular will be bringing leadership skills to the block. As the first of twenty homes to be completely gutted and rebuilt on this block, this home’s dedication is a great day for the neighborhood.
At 3:30, the sound of gospel singing replaces the hocking and plocking of hammers. Outside the house on the street, more than 100 neighborhood residents, friends, and Habitat homeowners have gathered to celebrate the dedication. It is time to “have church,” time to celebrate the goodness of Jesus and acknowledge God as the builder.
As Millard Fuller, Habitat for Humanity’s founder, would say, “every house dedication is a living sermon, a tangible demonstration of God’s love and power.” Leading the service is LaVerne Cooper, co-executive director of Sandtown Habitat. She is particularly pleased this day; this house, which had been vacant for twenty years, had been her grandmother’s home. In fact, this is LaVerne’s old block; the vacant house next door was where she grew u. Now LaVerne, also a Habitat homeowner, is leading the way in rebuilding her former block.
At the vibrant dedication service, special music was provided by the New Song Community Learning Center Choir. Keys and a Bible were presented to the new homeowners. Other Habitat families presented flowers. Testimonies were offered by the Elliott’s, Epiphany volunteers, and other community leaders. Linking the testimonies was the realization that new relationships have been formed across immense racial, social, and spatial chasms. A closing prayer and house blessing was pronounced.
Finally, the moment has come to cut the ribbon. Buddy, a lifetime resident of Sandtown, joins Mr. Elliott and members of Epiphany for the honors. To cheers and clapping, the Elliott’s enter 1511 North Stricker Street, new homeowners. Life is affirmed; a community long put down is rising up.
Few events more vividly capture the heartbeat of ministry at New Song Community Church. Sandtown Habitat, one of more than 1000 Habitat affiliates, was begun inn 1990 by our congregation. Committed to being a Christian community development church, we have embraced the rebuilding of our neighborhood. Yes, a vacant house has been restored. But it is more than that. The community of faith gathered on Stricker Street is properly celebrating Easter – a message both heavenly and earthly. Reconciliation is being joined by resurrection. (Conn)
A debate has developed over the past century as to the purpose and ministry of the church in the world. After decades of disagreement, we find the majority of churches polarized around one of two extremes. Either they are so focused on meeting the needs of people that they are neglecting any form of evangelistic proclamation and so earning the title, liberal. Or they are so evangelism conscious that they rarely stoop from their pulpits to hear the cries on the street.