I love that the word Gospel means Good News. While it’s too easy – even dangerous – to oversimplify the Gospel, it’s just as easy to over-complicate how we live it out in our daily lives. Especially as the Church. I’m convinced we need to spend more time asking, “is what we’re doing really good news” and if so, to whom is it good news? If we’d let the answer drive our agenda, we’d probably be a lot more effective in reaching and impacting our community.
We’ve noticed a pattern at ANC; whenever we serve those in need, people seem to take note. We first noticed it on Easter when we canceled our regular scheduled Easter services to organize a community wide food drive. We had hundreds of unchurched take part (on a Sunday morning) and two out of the three local network news stations featured our efforts as a part of their Easter evening newscast. The same thing happened the next year when we moved our Easter service downtown and outdoors, sharing worship and communion with the homeless of Austin. Two more news segments and a front-page newspaper article entitled “A New Kind of Easter for a New Kind of Church.”
I’m not writing this to brag about our news coverage. And although I’m proud of the path our church has taken, I’m not writing this to draw attention to ANC. I’m writing this because I hope we’ll take note of what others are taking note of.
About a year ago I was tweeting a few thoughts on the church being more socially concerned when I got a surprise tweet from a follower who lived in NYC: “I just wanted you to know that if I wasn’t a backslidden Jewish atheist, I’d want you as my pastor”. You couldn’t offer me a better compliment.
If you know me or my family at all, you know that last week I brought my 7 year-old adoptive son home from Ethiopia. With over a dozen families at ANC in the middle of the adoption process, it’s been a journey our entire church has been a part of. During a layover in the Detroit airport I got a call from Fox News asking if they could capture the story when we arrived. They wanted to do a live segment at 5 o’clock and a longer version at 9pm. They committed nearly four minutes to the segment that aired on both the newscasts, and within hours the web link to the video had been re-posted to over 700 Facebook pages. The reporter claimed on twitter that it was one of her favorite stories ever.
In a moment of curiosity I checked my Blog stats today. 8 out of the 10 most read posts over the last year where related to serving the poor. Not my leadership. Not my theological insight. It wasn’t even close. People are interested in mercy and justice. They are drawn to these things. Christians are seeking to learn how to be good news and our onlookers are hoping to see it played out.
A socially active church gaining media attention is no coincidence. It’s an indicator. In a world screaming out for the church to be the church, it makes sense. People are looking for some Good News, yet too often we’re no news at all.
Jesus told us to serve the least. Here’s what I know, when we do, “it works”. I’m not going to try and explain what “it works” means, because it works in so many ways. Give it a shot and see for yourself.