Church must 'Go out into the world'

Published: Thursday, September 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 31, 2005 at 6:29 p.m.
The church has always been a place where saints can come to be spiritually revived and sinners can be spiritually healed and delivered. It has also been a place of refuge from the troubles that often accompany daily living. As ministers and pastors we are called to welcome all who enter through the doors of the sanctuary, and then do all we can to provide comfort, counseling and biblical teaching, as well as meeting physical needs such as food and temporary shelter and other needs as they may arise.
However, with all of the things that are done within the walls of the church, which should be done if a church is to be committed to being motivated by the life of Christ, there are those times when the church must go beyond the boundaries of the church structure and minister to the community at large.
Why must this be done? One answer stands out from all others. When Jesus told Peter to feed his sheep, it was with full recognition that this service could, and did, require great sacrifice on the part of Peter and the other disciples. Throughout his ministry, Christ calls his disciples to pick up their crosses and follow him. He did not call these men to settle into one place or one way of thinking.
These men were called to go out into the world. This is the model for the church of today, regardless of denomination, number of members or status in the community. God's new commandment, made new through the sacrifice of Jesus, is that we love our neighbors as God has loved us. The model for this love is unbounded, unlimited, radical, adventurous and bold; and, most importantly, it is inclusive of all people.
The role of the church in the community is also to vigorously pursue peace and justice without fear and hesitation, especially for those whom society often classifies as expendable, and this is based on Deuteronomy 16:19-20, which reads: "You shall not pervert justice, you shall not show partially, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eye of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice you shall follow, that you may inherit the land which the Lord your God gives to you." The need for justice is as valid today as it was when these words were written.
Finally, the role of the church in the community is to do all of those things that are done within the church walls, but expand and adapt those things in the community so that community members know the church is sincere about truly reaching out to help.
Actions that take place in our churches are rooted in the Gospel.
Likewise, just as we are rooted in the Gospel in the church, our homes and in other places, we are also rooted in our communities, and this cannot be done unless we are first rooted in the Gospel to witness and to serve. This desire to serve must be deep within our hearts.
When we minister to the hungry, the sick, the oppressed, the naked and the imprisoned in our communities, we indeed move beyond the church walls, fulfill all of the commandments given by God and later taught by Jesus to his disciples, and therefore keep alive the concept of spiritual and social ministry beyond the church building.
The Rev. Milford Lewis Griner is president of the Alachua County Ministerial Alliance.

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