Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gospel Gaps

“Can you hear me now?” We’ve probably all heard the mildly annoying cell phone advertisements on TV and radio that claim one provider has better “coverage” then the next company. The idea is that you don’t want to be caught in gaps where there is no cell phone coverage, or where your calls might be dropped. Certainly on Maui with our high mountains, any cell phone user has experienced losing coverage on the way to Lahaina or Hana, or other “gaps” where there are no broadcast towers, or the signal is interfered with or spotty.

As I’m composing this newsletter, I’m returning from our Fall Pastor’s Conference in Minden, Nevada, where our presenter spoke about “Church Simple.” The speaker was President Randy Golter, of the Rocky Mountain District churches of our LCMS. He spoke about the simplicity of what the church is: God speaking and the church hearing. The church is created by God speaking to us in Christ, and gathering us together as His body to hear and believe His Word. The church is also tasked with speaking God’s Word to the world—proclaiming the wonders that He has done in Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection.

As President Golter was encouraging us in our mission to be a speaking church, one that speaks the gospel to the world, he proposed the metaphor of churches being like cell phone towers that broadcast the Gospel. And part of our job as Christians in God’s mission to make disciples of all nations is to look for where there are “coverage gaps” in the world. As we live in an unbelieving world, we know there are many places where people have not yet heard the living voice of the Gospel. There are “coverage gaps” where the Word of Christ is not being spoken and bringing its saving message to lost sinners. There may be places where coverage is interfered with or spotty, where obstacles to hearing the Gospel may exist. Sometimes the church itself can present an obstacle

Taking his advice to heart, I hope that we as a congregation on Maui can start to think proactively about “where are the ‘Gospel gaps’ on our island of Maui?” If our church is like a cell phone tower, broadcasting the Gospel, who isn’t hearing it? Are people listening? Even on our small island, where might people be unable to hear Christ speaking through His church? Where within our community is the gospel not being heard, and what can we do to bring that word of Christ to them? Just because our island is peppered with different churches doesn’t mean that the Gospel is reaching everyone on the island. We might have to look at a smaller scale for where those gaps are (instead of finding whole cities or communities that have no church at all). We may need to look in our workplace, our family, our neighborhood.

Are there groups of people that are isolated from the gospel because of their language? Because of their social class (perhaps in relation to ours)? Because of the color of their skin? Because they had a different religious upbringing? Because they would never set foot inside a church? There are certainly some areas where we have a strong gospel signal, and in our church and school people are regularly hearing God’s Word. In our Bible studies people hear. But how many remain far outside the hearing of God’s Word?

Once we’ve identified those gaps, how can we fill them? How can we provide better “Gospel coverage” to those gaps? It may be a matter of simply listening to a person share their problems, and offering them the comforting message of the Gospel. It may be that there is an outreach to the community that we as a congregation can offer. It may be that we can take better advantage of opportunities that are already out there. But our task is very simple—it is to be a “speaking church” that speaks God’s Word into the lives of lost, hurting, or broken sinners wherever they may be found. President Golter advised that whenever we identify those gaps where the Gospel is not being preached, we should prioritize, strategize, and implement. So this is your assignment, members of Emmanuel: start identifying those gaps! Look around you and see where and to whom the Gospel is not yet being preached. Let’s start the discussion and talk about and share what “Gospel gaps” we see in our community, and how we can increase our “Gospel coverage” to bring more people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. “Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matt. 9:38)…“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8).

No comments: