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Don’t forget: the gospel is word as well as deed, says Baptist minister

Friday 25 September 2015

When people really need food, should you instead preach the gospel to them? If yes, then why would you spend your time putting food on people’s tables when they’re going to a godless eternity? One Baptist minister and media commentator thinks churches are getting the balance wrong between gospel as deed and gospel as word.

“It’s false to try and set one against the other,” says Karl Faase, Christian communicator, media presenter, and social commentator. “Both are important. Both are in the gospel. I think the Bible is committed to both and Christians should be committed to both.”

Nevertheless, Faase argues that the church in Australia has defaulted to a focus on gospel as deed rather than gospel as word, and believes that we must rediscover our commitment to gospel as word.

“In churches across Australia everyone has grasped the idea that we need gospel as deed (caring for people, standing with the needy, standing up for injustice), and that’s a really important part of the message of Jesus and the Bible. But people have tended to default to it.

“I think it’s because gospel as deed is really popular. If you go and dig wells in Cambodia you feel like you’re doing something positive, you’re seeing an outcome in peoples’ lives. If you tell your neighbour who’s not a churchgoer you’re doing it, they’ll think you’re a good person. It’s wins all around,” says Faase.

Gospel as deed is a concrete act, it’s popular in the community, and people feel good about it. So Faase says it’s not surprising it’s in vogue in Australian churches.

“But if you tell your neighbour ‘I’m going to Cambodia to give out Bibles and preach the gospel,’ you’ll get not quite the same positive response.soup kitchen

“Or if you ask, ‘what are you doing in your local church to help people in your community know the person of Jesus and spread the message of Jesus clearly?’ you probably won’t get quite as an enthusiastic or active response.”

Faase wants to keep the current emphasis on gospel as deed, but is worried that if the trend continues we might lose gospel as word. If that happens, “then we’re missing a key part of Jesus’ call on our lives.”

To rediscover gospel as word, Faase is linking up with Crossover (a national initiative of Australian Baptist Ministries committed to resourcing churches in effective communication of the gospel) and State Baptist Unions to conduct training events designed to help give believers confidence in communicating the gospel.

“We need to move Christians from fearful silence to positive engagement,” says Faase. He says the average Christian in church on Sunday does not have the confidence in what they believe to engage in conversations about Christianity during the week.

But he doesn’t have a particular style of evangelism in mind, and critiques the idea that we need to replicate what has been successful in the past.

“What we need to reclaim is just a passion to be committed to evangelism, not [a particular] style. I think there are times when big events call people to faith and responses happen. But to suggest we’re not very good at evangelism so what we need to do is find another Billy Graham would be a fairly foolish way to go.

“In other words, its kind of wrong to say there’s this one way, and we’ve got to go back to there. We have to be committed to working out what works in our area, and pursuing that as much as we can.

“I think the combination of one-to-one evangelism, small group evangelism, small events around people’s homes, church-based events where people come [together], and large regional events ­– all of them need to be done as much as we can,” says Faase.

Image: SJU Undergraduate Admissions | Flickr, CC License

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