A healthy gospel church is incarnational and relational. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God….and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1;14). And as the incarnational Son of God lived amongst people, so his body, the church, is called to walk in his shoes and follow in his ways.
“Jesus got his hands and feet dirty without getting his heart dirty.”
I think of Paul’s words in Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship”. Every day we live our lives as a sacrificial offering to God in whatever we do and with whoever we are. Jesus got his hands and feet dirty without getting his heart dirty. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27). It’s being in the world but not of the world.
In Gairloch, Kinlochewe and Torridon Free Church, living in a small, rural setting, it seemed easier to put incarnational and relational ministry into practice, both in terms of encouraging the congregation to do so, to be involved in the life of the community in every way, and the leadership also, including myself as the minister. And that is what preach and seek to practice. Involvement in the life of the community and the lives of the people in ordinary ways, sharing an extraordinary Saviour as we do so.
So we do not wait for people to come to the church, but as the church, we go into as many groups, clubs, activities and amenities that make up the warp and woof of this culture and community, and minister in grace and love in the name of Jesus. Whether it’s the local newspaper, radio station, litter picking group, Gaelic speaking group, youth club, community council or museum, we view the whole of life as belonging to Christ and enter every area with him and for him. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). We think, “how can I get into this?”, rather than “how can I get out of this?”. We are not escapologists.
To keep being a healthy church we of course need to come together to worship and share and encourage one another on the Lord’s Day. Fellowship together in the Word and in worship is crucial. We need feeding and the re-fuelling of grace and the gospel in order to keep healthy. So, gathering to worship incarnationally and relationally is as important as scattering to worship incarnationally and relationally. We meet as friends and family and warmly welcome everyone who comes along. Freely we have received and so freely we give.
The vision of the Free Church of Scotland is to see a “Healthy Gospel Church for Every Community in Scotland.”
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