Christianity has never been a neutral entity in any context. From the first century onward, the Church either rubbed entire national systems the wrong way (see 1st Century Rome, Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union and even present-day American politics), or it swept entire regions into seasons of great peace and prosperity where people genuinely cared for one another (see Acts 2 and the Judeo-Christian ethic adopted throughout world history). If you rightly read history, wherever there was injustice or violence or the strong exploiting the weak, the Church was usually there speaking up, getting ignored, speaking up more, fighting through and eventually bringing change to a terrible situation
I share this because I was recently interviewed by the Woonsocket Call about our campus launch in that city October 1st. Based on the first few questions I quickly realized the writer was far more interested in whether or not our renting the school broke the law regarding the separation of church and state than in who we were and what we wanted to do for the city. “How much were we paying?” asked the interviewer. Answer: the same rate anyone else had to pay for using the school. “Is this permanent?” Not if we can help it! “Did this get city council approval?” “Was it a unanimous decision?” “What are you paying?” (Yes, repeated)… Etc… On and on the rapid-fire questions came. No interest in who we were, just lots of digging for reasons why we shouldn’t be there.
It’s amazing how people can interpret God’s work as an imposition on their lives and not a benefit (see the Garden of Eden, Israel’s History post-Solomon, the Religious Establishment’s response to Jesus). We must remember that Jesus was misunderstood and rejected. So too His Church will be again and again (Proof the Bible is accurate). The world is at odds with her Maker to this very day and yet the Gospel is the announcement of peace! The Gospel declares the war is over, Jesus took our punishment to bring us back to Him. We have to share it with people even when they don’t want to hear it
At the end of the day, however, I believe it is essential that the Church NEVER compromise on one simple goal: to be a blessing to the community. The city in which a church lives should be GLAD that church exists. No, the Church should not be a nuisance and troublemaker for a group of people, the Church does not exist to judge the world, the Church exists to bring good to the world. For instance, read Jesus and the New Testament writers on this:
Matthew 5:16 let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you
A Church that does these things will be a benefit to its community. Like when Stephen brought the Gospel to Samaria in Acts 8. The section ends with this passage: Acts 8:8 (ESV) So there was much joy in that city.
As I talked with the interviewer I kept repeating one simple thing: We want to be a blessing to this city. Thankfully, he quoted me accurately about that. Let me also take a moment to celebrate the amazing number of people and man-hours put in by the Woonsocket and Milford launch teams over the last year. I’m blown away by the late nights, the number of prayer walks, the time spent at community events, the upcoming gas buy down in Woonsocket, the lawn party in Milford… all these ACTIVE community-loving ventures performed by our teams are amazing. And we haven’t even had a service yet. Again, the point is to BLESS the city!
So that’s why we are coming to Woonsocket and Milford. We believe unashamedly that the Gospel of Jesus is the answer to the world’s problems. No, the Church is not perfect. It is filled with sick people who need help spiritually, emotionally, mentally, relationally and physically. But the Church is a good thing. The Church has the good news for a world full of bad news. We want to create space for people to experience the supernatural… and that begins with being rightly connected to Him who made you through the Gospel message of Jesus
I’m excited to see what happens. It’s a new day. You should join us!