The church's future in regard to moving the needle with issues of justice may be in our ability to connect with the leaders in the city who love the same things as well. People will notice Jesus when we do this.
1 John 3...
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3 ESV)
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18 ESV)1 John is a book of tension. We are to love God and love people. We have to do both. And it's not easy. It creates tension.
He comes from St. Louis. St. Louis is a ROUGH city. 54% of kids not graduating high school. Should not the Gospel address the darkness in this city? He knew he had to lead a church that would do word and deed ministry. Historically the church usually chooses to do one or the other. We don't do both well.
For Jesus the main ministry for him was preaching, yet as he was doing that he would do amazing works of justice and mercy.
Every person who came to Jesus who came to him for healing, he healed them. He was never so distracted by the needs of people that he failed to address their greatest need, the need of spiritual transformation.
If we are going to do social justice we have to nail the Gospel. We have to know the definition of it and live by it. Or it will distract us from the Gospel. If you don't know what the historical message of Jesus is our people will be confused and we'll lose the Gospel for the sake of doing good deeds. Do you know the definition of the Gospel? The true historical Gospel?
Church history shows us that if we don't get this right our churches will be jacked.
But on the other hand many of us can answer "what would happen if we died tonight?" but maybe the next question has to be, "how do we live if we are not going to die tonight?" We have to have a definition of "deed"
Social justice is not the Gospel, but it is a CLEAR implication of the Gospel. Have to be clear on this or the church will be a complete mess.
The screen saver of the human heart is always works righteousness. If we don't bring serious clarity to what the Gospel is our people will always default into doing good deeds and thinking that makes them accepted by God.
If you don't know your neighbors don't try and roll out something that is going to change the world. Get to know your neighbors first.
If you live in the suburbs don't just jump into the inner city for the Saturday work day. Love the people around you first.
Social Justice = meeting the basic tangible needs of people and fighting systematic oppression that serves to keep them there.
He knew that if they (the Journey Church) didn't go to the broken parts of the city they would never make an impact as a church in St. Louis. It would just be another show. St. Louis didn't need another big church show.
What do we do?
1. The church is called, first and foremost, to proclaim the gospel. This is the most loving thing that we can do as a church. To all sorts of people, all race, class, and education. We have to keep people's eternal plight in mind. This is most loving. We have to beat this drum or our people won't get it.
2. You must not use social justice to avoid the offense of the cross. It doesn't work and you'll do a ton of damage if you try and do this. Don't be too optimistic or pessimistic about the Gospel you preach. Some will hate you and some will love you. Your definition of the Gospel will be a problem for some no matter how much social justice you do.
3. Churches should plant other churches that love to preach the Gospel and do social justice. We need to reproduce people and leaders into new churches. New churches attract people who want to make a difference in the city. Raise up more leaders and send them out. Your people are there and ready to serve. You just have to give them a vision.
4. The institutional church must equip individuals who will become the "organic" church. The job of the institutional church is to focus on the word ministry and then equip the people to organically grow ministry out of that. Equip your people (church leaders) and then let them go wild with their dreams for reaching those who need Jesus with word and deed ministry. Easy for church leaders to get distracted away from preaching, teaching, and leading, so we have to equip our people to it.
Figure out a way to teach your people the Gospel. Be crystal clear about that. Then teach them the huge implications of this historical Gospel. Be crystal clear about that. This creates tension. Live in it and DO IT.