by Gami Ortiz
Just a few nights ago, we had a Discipleship Leaders meeting at Kossuth. It serves as a time for us to check in with those that are actively engaged in discipleship ministries in our church, study the word together, hear updates from those ministries, pray for one another, etc. This last meeting, Abraham led us through some passages from Acts 5 and 8 where the persecution of the early church is explicitly mentioned. Yet, it also highlights that this persecution led to the spread of the gospel.
Sometimes it’s easy to become inwardly focused when we’re in times of trial. It’s a natural reaction. There’s a sense of preservation that kicks in. However, it’s clear from these instances in Acts (as well as several others) that God often uses these times of trial as opportunities to advance His kingdom through us.
I had a conversation during that Discipleship Leaders meeting with folks from our church family who were recently involved in siding a house belonging to a woman in need. We learned of the need through Habitat for Humanity and a group from our body jumped right into the task of helping this lady. What struck me most about the conversation was the statement that in this season, when so many people are shut-in and quarantined, they caught the attention of the neighbors. People in that neighborhood were wondering what was going on. Why would a group of people get together, go out of their way and do this during this time? Neighbors came by and asked questions. What an opportunity to point to Jesus!
In making a parallel to Acts, I’m not suggesting that we’re under persecution, to be clear. However, we’re in difficult times – in a season of trials. And the parallel here is that just as God used the trials of Acts 5 and 8 to spread the gospel, I think the principle applies to our current situation. In the current time of trial, when a lot of people have become inwardly focused, it stands out when others reach out. And we are to reach out. Let me give you three reasons why we should – whether in this season or any other:
1. Outreach reflects God’s character. We see from some laws in the Old Testament that God made provisions for those that were most vulnerable in society to ensure they were not just protected, but taken care of by Israel (Deut. 14:28-29; 15:7-8; 24:14-15; 24:19-21). This is referenced again in the New Testament. James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” God is passionate about those who are marginalized; society’s “forgotten” people – and He calls the Church to be involved.
2. Outreach is a practical demonstration of our faith. Once again, in James 2:14-17 we read, “14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” By engaging in helping others, we act out what we say we believe. If we’re not willing to do that, James says our faith is dead. This doesn’t mean that our works enable our salvation, rather that our salvation overflows into our works. It’s a natural outworking of our faith.
3. Outreach promotes the gospel. As I’ve already stated, helping others points to God’s character and it demonstrates our faith. But outreach ought also to be accompanied by gospel proclamation and vice-versa. We saw this example in the disciples in our current sermon series. Mark 6:12-13 tells us, “So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out any demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.” These two – proclaiming the gospel and outreach – are meant to go hand in hand. This isn’t to say that every act of kindness, each time you lend a hand will necessarily lead to a gospel conversation. But if we don’t approach those situations as if they will, then I can almost guarantee that they won’t.
There have been opportunities we’ve engaged in as a church to love others in our community already in this season. I pray and expect that there will be more. I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen already – our body rallying to meet physical needs with the good news on their lips. Keep up the good work, Kossuth!