Deep and wide
In a recent setting, the leader drew attention to the S’s on The Salvation Army uniform and what they stand for—“saved to serve.” But that’s really only half of the message, isn’t it? Surely, we are also called to be “serving to save.”
Booth used colorful language to highlight the latter when he suggested that a hungry man needed to be fed before he might be open to the gospel. We are told that not a single person went through the soup lines without conversation about the condition of his soul.
Easy for Booth to say, perhaps, since most (if not all) of the social work in those early days was done by the soldiers and officers. The Army then was not faced with the challenge of today where qualified social workers are required by law, some (if not many) of whom may not be Salvationists or even practicing Christians.
However, that situation should not, surely, necessitate our giving up the principle Booth established of meeting physical needs in order to earn the opportunity to share Christ—to offer the “whole loaf” not just half of it.
The Great Commandment (Luke 12:30-31) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), both given by Christ himself, collectively spell out a mission that not only necessitates the church going deep (spiritually), but also wide (evangelically).
The implications are that we are to go deep: By loving God, loving and meeting the needs of our “neighbors” within the church body, proclaiming the Gospel inside the church, and deeply discipling every church member to Christ-likeness.
To go wide: By loving and meeting the needs of our neighbors (of all nations) outside the church, sharing the gospel message with them, enrolling (baptizing) them into the church then discipling them, too.
“Deep and wide.” We used to sing that chorus frequently years ago. I haven’t heard it lately, have you?
In many communities, what used to be considered overseas missionary endeavor has come home—many nations are on the doorstep of the corps. And they bring their own, in some cases non-Christian, religion and intense evangelism with them.
In membership terms, Islam has now pushed Roman Catholicism worldwide into second place. According to Eurostat 2006, by 2050 one in every five Europeans will be Muslim. It has been reported that most major European cities have several mosques. In some cities Muslims are buying empty cathedrals and replacing them with mosques. Do we see that trend here?
The Observer (a British newspaper) reported in December 2008 that in just over a generation the number of people attending Church of England Sunday services will fall by 90 percent.
What has this to do with us? Statistics suggest that Christianity is lessening in impact especially in Europe, Scandinavia and England and that the wind is blowing from East to West. At the same time, Islam is increasing.
Christ tells us that he’s not coming back until the gospel of the kingdom has been preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations (Matthew 24:14). So we have our work cut out for us, don’t we?
But let me end on a piece of good news. There is an evangelistic opportunity here that Christians in closed countries do not have because of the kinds of restrictions placed on them.
Deep and wide.
Now there’s a challenge!