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Doing Evangelism by Being a Church

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : November 29, 2004

I’m reading through Seek the Peace of the City.
At this point, I need to mention that when I say "I’m reading a book,"
I don’t mean that I am reading every word in said book.  Many people
who know me assume that I spend hours each day reading.  All the signs
are there: I have lots of books, I reference books all the time in
conversation, and I mentions books on missionThink often.  But it is rare for me to read a book in its entirety.  What I often do, as is the case with Seek the Peace of the City,
is to read the introduction, and page through the rest of the book,
making sure to take the time to focus in on information that is
currently applicable.  I don’t buy books to "read" them…I buy them as
resources for future use. 

Anyways, I’m am currently looking through Seek the Peace of the City by Eldin Villafane.  It is a pretty good book on urban ministry.  On page 25, Villafane quotes Orlando Costas’ "The Integrity of Mission."  I’d like to bring that quote to your attention:

Therefore, the church, which is not the Kingdom, is nevertheless its most visable expression and its most faithful interpreter in our age…as the community of believers from all times and places, the church both embodies the Kingdom and its life and witnesses to its presence and future in its mission.

It is this understanding of the church as both expression and interpreter, embodiment and witness, that underlies Villafane’s
understanding of mission, and therefore urban mission.  There has been
a renewal of talk in the church and academy regarding the Kingdom of
God in recent years.  And while many would agree with the quote I just
referenced, the sad reality is that few of us have dared to risk our
comfort and "do" church in such a way. 

Many churches (at least the ones with which I am most familiar) tend to emphasize witness to the exclusion of embodiment.  Such
churches sacrifice the messy things involved with embodying the Kingdom
(like ethnic diversity, economic justice, etc.) in the name of
increasing their capacity for witness.  The thing is, doing church in
such a way that embodies the values of the Kingdom is controversial.
We’d rather just tell people how to have eternal life.  But the thing
is, the Church is anemic without embodiment.  We have to embody the
Kingdom as well as proclaim it.  We have to embody a bit of heaven, not
only tell people how to go to heaven when they die. 

We cannot
be enslaved to utility; if someone isn’t willing to buy our Gospel if
it requires them to rub shoulders with people different than them, then
they aren’t ready for the Gospel.  If people want to embody the
Kingdom, but only with other upper-middle-class-wasps, then they don’t
understand what it means to "be church."  It is never ok to fudge on the Sermon on the Mount in order to make it easier for people to be in a faith community. 

Ultimately,
I believe that we will be the most effective in our witness when we are
ardent in our embodiment.  The world longs for a church that lives what
it proclaims.  The world needs a church that shows them who Jesus is
before it tells them who He is.  Perhaps the most effective means of
evangelism is simply BEING the church–in all of the controversial and provocative ways that Jesus envisions.

for further reading . . .

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