Christianity Beyond Church Walls
August 12 2011 by D.E. Parkerson

“A conversion is incomplete if it does not leave a man with an intense social consciousness,” writes William Barclay, New Testament scholar, “if it does not fill him with a sense of overwhelming responsibility for the world.”

No church should ever become an island of believers isolated from the hurts of our world. If the world sees the church as nothing more than self-proclaimed pious people who are connoisseurs of preaching and praise, but uncaring and uninvolved in meeting the needs of hurting people, it will shrug its shoulders and walk away.

The parable of the Good Samaritan in the New Testament emphasizes this very point. The religious leaders mentioned in this parable were regarded as among the most spiritual in that day, but they did not impress Jesus. The point that Jesus emphasizes in this story is forever contemporary.

Churches that fail to reach beyond their walls to meet the needs in their communities cannot fully carry out the mission assigned by Christ. Elton Trueblood, a great Quaker theologian, once described such churches as “stained glass foxholes.” “They meet,” he said, “isolated from the world, wash their own car, and go home.”

I commend the body of believers known as the Salvation Army for they believe that faith which operates only within the walls of a church structure has no resemblance to the truth Jesus both exemplified and taught. They have impacted our world for Christ in an outstanding way for well over a century. They understand that evangelism and practical ministry are the obverse and reverse sides of the same coin.

William Booth, founder of the Army, and his successive generations of warriors have an affinity with the philosophy of renowned missionary C.T. Studd:

“Some wish to live within the sound
Of church or chapel bell,
I want to run a rescue shop
Within a yard of hell.”

Some Christians may not be ready to make that level of commitment, but every Christian should and can be sensitive to the needs of hurting people. Multitudes of people in our country, especially including those who are homeless and those who are victims of domestic and other kinds of abuse, live all around us.

Richard Foster, in Freedom of Simplicity, writes, “Our contemporary culture is plagued by the passion to possess. The lust for affluence has become psychotic. Christian simplicity frees us from this modern mania. It brings sanity to our compulsive extravagance. … People once again become more important than possessions.”

The story is told of a simple-living Quaker who was sitting on his porch while his new neighbor moved in. He watched with interest as the newcomer unloaded his goods. Every kind of trinket and expensive gadget imaginable seemed to come off the moving trucks. Finally, he strolled over to greet his new neighbor. Looking at the abundance of fancy belongings, he said with a stroke of wit, “If, neighbor, thou dost ever need anything, come to see me and I will tell thee how to get along without it.”

Let us all be grateful for what we have, but let us also be aware of persons in need to whom we can minister in the name of our Lord. A Christian faith that does not reach beyond the walls of a church structure falls short of being the genuine article.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Parkerson is a native of Georgia, a graduate of Mercer University (B.A.), Southeastern Seminary (M. Div. and Th.M.), and Campbell University (D.D.). He has served as pastor of one church in Georgia and five churches in North Carolina. Following retirement as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Sanford on Sept. 30, 1996, he has served 10 North Carolina churches as interim pastor. His column, The Paper Pulpit, has appeared weekly in a few newspapers and other publications since 1958. He and his wife, Jessie, live in Wilmington near their daughter and family.)
8/12/2011 8:10:00 AM by D.E. Parkerson | with 0 comments

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