By Robin G. Jordan
John Mason, provisional chairman of the Anglican Connection, a network of gospel-centered Anglican and other Protestant churches in the Reformed tradition, in his February 6 Anglican Connection Update, points out that many of contemporary churches are so focused on Sunday “worship,” they are not known as places and people of “compassion” in their local community. By “contemporary” I mean modern-day churches. I am not referring to the divide between contemporary and traditional churches. These churches do not have a large “footprint” in their local community. They may not have a footprint at all. On the other hand, they may have a negative reputation in their local community.
As can be seen from a number of today’s articles, North America is in the midst of a major paradigm shift. The Christian worldview is no longer the dominant worldview. The number of former churchgoers who no longer identify themselves as Christian is increasing. With this shift churches no longer have an established place for themselves in their local communities. In some parts of the United States and Canada churches face a growing prejudice against Christians and Christianity.
As a consequence it is critically important for churches to have a positive and meaningful impact upon their local community—a large footprint. If they have no connection with their local community, if they do not build bridges between themselves and the local community, they are not likely to flourish.
Among the reasons that the early Church grew was that its members showed compassion toward their non-Christian “neighbors.” They helped them whenever and however they could. They followed the principles that Christ himself had laid out—showing “concern and sympathy for others” and “friendliness, generosity, and consideration” toward them. While living in evil times, they did as much good as they were able.
One of the reasons that self-identified Anglican churches are so focused upon Sunday “worship” is that they are dominated by Catholic Revivalist theology with its emphasis upon priestcraft, ritualism, and the sacraments. This thinking encourages the view that as long as church members attend Mass, receive the sacraments, give money to the Church, and live moral live, they are right with God. This is how a former rector of mine, an Anglo-Catholic, explained it to me.
Such a view, however, does not recognize that all Christians are called to a life of ministry and service. This entails using for God for his glory and the good of our fellow human beings the experiences, knowledge, passions, talents, and spiritual gifts, which God has given us. Faith is expressed in love. A faith that does not lead to good works is a dead faith.
If the members of a church are truly walking as disciples of Christ, the church will be having a positive and meaningful impact upon its local community, its region, and the world. It is unavoidable. A church’s footprint is the cumulative impact of not only the collaborative efforts of the church members and regular attenders of a particular church but also their individual efforts.