Monday, December 5, 2011

Thoughts on MIssion and the Church

One of the opportunities I enjoy is serving the needs of Kansas City’s local blindness community. I help my local congregation host an outreach center for the blind. Each month, between twenty and thirty folks come join us for a free meal. I also enjoy being a sounding board during the month for some of them and writing periodic devotions for some email lists. Now, the statistics do not lie. Over ninety-five percent of blind and visually impaired people remain unchurched. This is because of the myths some have heard about the Church’s view toward people with disabilities. Because many see the popular healing shows and happy-clappy hoopla that passes for Christianity, they get turned off. They join many mainline liberals and pundits who poke fun at the Word of Faith antics and call them the real Church. Mainline liberalism has also had its damaging effect on the blindness community. Congregations claiming to center their teaching on social justice and gaining equal rights turn Jesus into the prime example of a community organizer who belts out the hope that his demands bring if people obeyed His liberation teachings. That’s not the Gospel. It’s class-warfare dressed up in the hip garb of Christian terminology redefined. I think and pray often concerning the challenges that confront Confessional Christian evangelism to the blindness community. One such challenge raises its head in the name of mission but is only a step away from the ills I described. That challenge is the thinking that evangelism and outreach are separate from the Church. Outreach centers or preaching stations are said to be “mission outposts” since Word and Sacrament ministry is not done there. But, what is evangelism without the Church’s active proclamation of the Gospel and a show of hands-on love for the neighbor. It is social justice that can be carried out by the Red Cross, United Way, Kiwanis, etc. To divorce the Gospel from the Church that proclaims it to those who like or like it not is to rob Christ of the means by which He makes Himself known and by which He daily and richly forgives our sins. So, as I help people who come to our monthly meals, I am not acting apart from Christ’s Church in mission. Rather, our Lord Jesus strengthens our faith in Him and fervent love for one another by giving us His body and blood in Holy Communion. He sends me and all believers forth with His blessing, that His word will not return empty (Is. 55:10-11) but will accomplish that that for which He sends it. Christ does not stop having Himself a people during our care for others. We do not stop being His body when tending to people’s needs. Christ's Word and Sacraments sustain His body in our daily interactions. After all, a conversation dealing with how someone is feeling can lead to a discussion of our Lord’s provision and sustenance during times of illness or emotional instability. We do not stop confessing the Creed when helping someone deal with discrimination or insults over their blindness. God has still given us all our reason and senses and daily takes care of them. He redeemed us not just skin-deeply. His shed blood keeps our whole body, soul, and spirit in His peace. (1 Thes. 5:23) We as the Church are not our own. Christ has bought us with the price of His blood. (1 Cor. 6:19-20) Outreach centers, and relief efforts done by true Christians are not separate from the Church. Rather, through them, our Lord sends His Church in mission, bringing His mercy to the world in need of it. His Word will create in others trust in HIm and bring them into HIs body, the Church.

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