Community. A word that you hear discussed at length in different circles. You hear about your community on the local TV news broadcast. Often, there is an entire section in the local newspaper entitled, “Community.” And then there are churches and Christians who speak about “reaching their community for Christ.”
Lately, I have thought about this idea of community. As usual, I decided to look up the meaning of community as defined in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary. Here is what I found:
1. Properly, common possession or enjoyment; as a community of goods.
2. A society of people, having common rights and privileges, or common interests, civil, political or ecclesiastical; or living under the same laws and regulations. This word may signify a commonwealth or state, a body politic, or a particular society or order of men within a state, as a community of monks; and it is often used for the public or people in general, without very definite limits.
3. Commonness; frequency.
On the whole, I personally believe that Bible-believing Christians have been largely ineffective at reaching our communities for Christ. I wonder if it is because we “dart” in and out of the communities we are trying to reach. We are so careful in not becoming like them, that we spend very little time in “common interests, civil, political or ecclesiastical” or “commonness” as Mr. Webster defines it.
Instead of becoming part of our community, we live in our own little “communes” and try to “reach into our surrounding communities” with the Gospel. And although God’s Word will not return void and we do reach some in that manner, many go unreached due to our lack of integrating into our communities.
Missionaries are some of the greatest servants on this earth. One of the most effective missionaries the world has ever seen was Hudson Taylor. Although Hudson Taylor was one of the greatest Spirit-filled men in history, he was also very wise when it came to the communities he lived in. See the following taken from a biography of his life:
Adopting Chinese Dress & Lifestyle
When he ventured outside the port cities, Taylor found the Chinese more interested in his western clothes, than in his message. So Taylor abandoned his western-style clothes and adopted Chinese dress. Other western missionaries sought to preserve their European lifestyle, Taylor was convinced the gospel would only succeed if missionaries were willing to affirm the culture of the people they were seeking to reach. Hudson Taylor’s exhortation was: “Let us in everything unsinful become like the Chinese, that by all means we may save some.” Taylor adopted Chinese dress, manners and culture. He took the Chinese name Dai Desheng; his given name literally means “virtuous life.”
Wow! What exhortation by the man God used to reach multitudes of Chinese for His sake! Notice his quote again from the above excerpt, “Let us in everything unsinful become like the Chinese, that by all means we may save some.” Too many (including myself) have changed that to “Let us in nothing become like the world, that by no means we may save some.”
I fear we have elevated the doctrine of separation above the doctrine of salvation. We have attempted to reach our communities without becoming a part of our communities.
Recently, my wife and I went to some local tennis courts and enjoyed being outdoors in spring time. While we were there, we noticed scores and scores of people showing up with their little tykes for soccer practice and games. The “community” was gathering together for a common interest at a local park. I mentioned to my wife that it is too bad that our church doesn’t have scores of families also registering their kids for the local soccer clubs. Why? Because that is community…and that is an amazing way to reach the community! Tell me – which method would I have more success at? 1) Building a relationship with unsaved “Joe Smith” while sitting on the sideline (trying not to yell at the refs) and cheering on my little tyke and talking to him about his family, his work, and his life or 2) By walking up to his door “cold turkey” and handing him a gospel tract and inviting him to church?
The answer is fairly obvious. Our Christianity is too weak if we are afraid that we will be influenced by the world engaging in community actions. We are the ones that ought to be salt and light in our world. However, the last time I checked, salt is usually used ON your food, not away from the food. The salt is not put on your plate to be separate from the food but to ENHANCE (influence) the taste of the food.
C’mon churches and Christians! Let’s not just reach into our communities; let’s become an active part of our communities so that we can truly reach them for Christ with a long lasting impact