This Sunday is Easter and as we expect, there will be an increase in visitors at our church gatherings. So what are we going to preach?
“The Gospel of Jesus Christ… the reason for Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection,” we say.
Of course! I would hope so. After all, it may be the only opportunity we have to tell these visitors about Jesus and his crucifixion and resurrection. But this isn’t what I’m asking about. Preaching is communication and that involves so much more than just words. How we act and how the our church acts has every bit as much to do with what will be preached this Sunday as the message spoken during the sermon.
So what are we really going to preach?
Preach and When Necessary…
There’s a piece of ministry advise often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi that goes something like this, “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.” To often a false dichotomy between word and deed is created with this saying, as though preaching the gospel involves one or the other but not both. Last February I wrote a blog on why the mission of God requires both proclamation and demonstration of the gospel or why gospel witness requires both word and deed. So let’s refrain from creating an unnecessary dichotomy which isn’t the point of this little ministry maxim.
The point of preaching the gospel and when necessary using words is about recognizing the importance of our actions. And we all know that what we do (or don’t do) speaks volumes… much more than anything spoken. When it comes to preaching the gospel in spoken word (which is absolutely necessary if people are to hear the gospel story) what we do or how we act will either illustrate or undermine what is spoken. That’s why our actions must proceed and undergird our words.
The Unspoken Message
So again, I ask, what are we going to preach this Sunday? From the moment when the church begins gathering and visitors join in to the end, what message will our actions convey?
- Will our actions speak a message to visitors that they are welcomed and have come to the right place where they are regarded as friends or that they are strangers and outsiders who are shown no more hospitality than the same culturally polite greeting that they receive every morning from the cashier at the coffee shop or gas station?
- Will our actions speak a message to the visitors that this our church is truly seeking to follow Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, and full of both love and a life lived on mission with God or that our church is just going through the motions, checking off a set of legalistic traditions of a lifeless and uninspiring worship gathering?
- Will our actions speak a message to the visitors that we are a community of healing and faith where there is true joy and peace from God or that we are drowning in the same insane dysfunctionalities that exist in many American homes, work places, etc…?
- Will our actions speak a message to the visitors that we are a people who believe that God reigns supreme and has already won the victory over evil through his Son, Jesus Christ, who is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords or that we still functionally believe the nations and rulers of this world along with their politicians and talking-heads have the power?
Our response to these questions and others that could be asked will be answered in large part by what we do. In fact, we may preach the sermon of all sermons and have it all undone by a few bad actions (I could share many stories here). So when the visitors come this Sunday, by all means tell them the story of Jesus dying and being raised but tell them also in the way we act towards them and around them.
May God the Father fill every church with the power of the Spirit to be witnesses of the Son, Jesus Christ, on this Easter Sunday!