Tim Chester and Steve Timmis published a book in 2008 called ‘Total Church’, in which the term “Gospel Intentionality” appeared, since then, becoming a catchphrase for something that is not new, but may have been largely forgotten in our fast-paced, preoccupied existence. The New Testament always has maintained that the Gospel be shared with sinners who are lost. Since the early church exploded after Jesus commissioned his disciples to spread the Good News beginning in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the outer ends of the known world, we have perhaps lost that initial urgency, living as though the job has already been done. As we see in 2 Cor. 5:17 and following, those who are ‘in Christ’ have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation. You and I have been given a ministry. We are called ambassadors for Christ, and God is making His appeal through us to a lost world. This does not necessarily mean that you have to quit your job, sell your house, go to Bible school, take two years of language school, and then relocate to a hut in the Amazon, wearing a thong and eating insects. It does mean however, that we live our lives in light of the purpose for which we are here, which means living as fulltime ambassadors for Christ.
Are you saying, “I don’t think I can do that”? If so, you are not alone. Most of us are either too shy, feel inadequate, wouldn’t know how, or are too preoccupied with other things – or all of the above. Let’s see if we can neutralize at least some of those obstacles to living as ordinary people with Gospel Intentionality.
1. It’s for ordinary Christians
“I don’t think I can be an ambassador for Christ, because I am just an average Christian. I don’t have the gift of evangelism, I don’t know my Bible as well as I should, I still struggle with sin in my life, I have never done anything extraordinary for God.” If this is you, then you’re the right person for the job!
The Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:7: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” What he is saying here, is that we have been entrusted with this incredible treasure – the Gospel. Where is this treasure housed? In jars of clay. In earthen vessels. These containers are weak, fragile, powerless, limited … I would think, a risky way to be transporting a treasure, but this is God’s way. Why does God do it this way? “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” We look for the classy container, but God looks for a weak, fragile, powerless, limited vessel … God looks for ordinary people, so that his power shows itself in our weakness and He is glorified. Our ordinariness is not a liability for the spread of the Gospel, it is a necessity, it is even an asset, so that the reception of the Gospel is not dependant on our ability, but on His power.
2. It’s for ordinary living
When Jesus made disciples, it was in the context of everyday life. It was in the process of eating together and walking together and talking together and going to dinner parties and weddings together. Gospel ministry need not be limited to Church Services, Camp Fires and Small Group Bible Studies. In fact, I dare say that the most effective Gospel ministry happens by ordinary people doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality. This means listening to, talking with, eating with, going places with people, all the while looking for ways to offer them a glimpse of the treasure we have.
Being an ambassador for Christ doesn’t mean that we have to come up with extravagant programs or methods to convince people that Jesus is the only way. Ordinary Christians who are committed to Gospel Intentionality, simply befriend people. They open their hearts and their homes. They babysit for a single mom. They invite a co-worker to a hockey game. They host a neighbourhood BBQ party. They visit the lonely at a retirement home. They buy a homeless person lunch. They volunteer to sit on a school board or some other community committee. They tutor kids at an afterschool program. They invite a neighbor for a walk. They hang out at the same coffee shop and get to know the people working there. They drop off some baking to the new family that moved in down the street. They coach a soccer team. They start a Facebook conversation with an acquaintance. They walk over to their backyard fence, lean over, and chat with the neighbour for a few minutes.
They make it a point to intentionally plan ordinary activities to build relationships with the goal to introduce a friend to Jesus. Ordinary Living with Gospel Intentionality means living all of life with wide open eyes to keep looking to make the most of every opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus with someone who is lost. Could there be anything more purposeful for us, than to make this our daily goal, until Jesus calls us home?
I close with a Prayer by Pastor Scotty Smith, of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee:
Dear Lord Jesus … You bought us with your life and death. You love us with more passion and delight than we can possibly imagine. You’ve secured our safe arrival in the new heaven and new earth. There’s no chance the wedding feast of the Lamb will not take place. Yet, even as you’ve determined the glorious end of all things, so you’ve appointed the means to that end. We’re not just to be the Bride in waiting, but workers in the harvest—the plentiful, ripe harvest. As the church—as your greatly loved Bride - we’re not supposed to be hanging out in the spa reading glamour magazines getting our nails done. We’re supposed to be getting dirt under our nails, as we do the hard and heart work of evangelism and missions … it’s worth it all. The price you paid “to have and to hold” your Bride makes our work a kingdom joy. Jesus, gracious Lord of the harvest, send us… send me into the harvest you’ve secured for yourself. What more could we possibly want for our church family? What other story would we choose for the rest of our days in this world, than to be the means by which you gather your Bride from the nations and prepare her for a future beyond our wildest dreams? Forgive us … focus us … free us … so very Amen, we pray, in your loving and triumphant name.
Our Lord has already sent us … may we now be eager to go with Gospel Intentionality, to the glory of God and for the benefit of our neighbour.
In Christ’s love, Pastor Andy