The 21st century church is struggling to find a perfect or fitting method to share Jesus with the world. Social and technological changes are moving at a speed with which religions have not been able to keep up. The advancement in communication, although it has benefited the church in many ways, is still by far the one thing with which this generation of churches is desiring to be on board.
Social media has reshaped the way people interact with one another. The ability to be in touch with thousands of your friends in a single application is almost unbeatable by any other social gathering, whether it’s a club, church, school, or sports team.
The competition is stiff, and it seems as though no organization can ever survive and stay relevant unless social media is one of its core strategies. What can today’s church do to stay relevant? What social group should we be reaching out to? Where do we go to do mission?
Let’s begin by weighing in on what Jesus did. There are at least three fundamental principles involved in the way He reached people.
First, Jesus loved people. His love was not conditional upon the circumstances or social class. By loving people, He was able to reach everyone, rich or poor, low or high, educated or uneducated, religious or secular. Jesus’ mission was to give love to a dying world. His heart of compassion was filled with the desire to have everyone drink from the fountain of His marvelous gift.
Second, Jesus met people’s needs. He helped the blind to see again, healed the sick, answered challenging questions from the philosophers, reassured people with hope, and provided comfort and care to the brokenhearted. His ministry brought followers from all over the region. People would stand in long lines awaiting healing, set their tents in the surrounding neighborhood to stay in the caravan, sit on stones for the distribution of fish and bread, and they climbed mountains to listen to the spoken Word. Whatever they were, people’s needs were met, that’s what mattered. As people found His ministry relevant, they responded, they followed, and they made it sustainable.
Third, Jesus taught people in practical ways. His way of presenting the truth was so plain that everyone could understand: children, foreigners, women, people with disabilities, politicians, professionals, and the list goes on. As a storyteller, He made the same old story from the Bible sound brand new.
We are faced with the irreversible challenge of a very secular society, a system that man has designed to live further away from God. As a church, we must continue to find creative ways to reach out to people. We must be genuine and love intentionally, not just liking people, but loving them.
The church will maintain a positive image in the community if it reaches people at the point of their need. The need to reinvent the way evangelism is presented is urgent and needs all hands on deck. Let us not be witnesses in name only, but by loving, caring, and sharing acts.
Elias F. Zabala, Sr., is the Atlantic Union Conference treasurer and stewardship director.
This editorial first appeared in the March 2019 issue of The Atlantic Union Gleaner magazine, page 3.