I don't blog often. That's an understatement for sure. This post is about something that has been stirring in my heart for a while, but this past weekend I felt "compelled" to do something about it.
What's the stirring? For the past 2 years and 10 months I've been pastor of Cypress Lake Baptist Church in Fort Myers, FL. The work has been difficult at times, but definitely rewarding. God has been kind and gracious to work here, often times through my mistakes. When I came I understood the church was an older congregation that had been in decline for some years. We are not a large church, but there was a group here that really wanted to move forward for the glory of God. I stated when I came that I wanted our church to be known for our gospel centrality and a desire to reach our community with that gospel. I still do!
However, after almost 3 years the truth is we have not engaged our community well. We have been blessed with many visitors over the past few years. Some of these visitors are now members. Many are not. I am grateful to God that He has sent us these visitors. It is evidence to me of a kind, gracious, patient, and generous God. However, we have not been faithful at going out into our community with the gospel.
Because I strongly believe we need to be out in our community more with the gospel I have been thinking more and more about how we can genuinely care for those around us. I am grateful that God has sent us visitors. It's exciting. But I am still burdened about being obedient to take the gospel to those around us. This is a strategy that we are currently thinking through as a church.
I am compelled to get into our community better, but there is more still. Two different things happened over this past weekend that caused me to feel compelled about something else. First, my friend Joe Thorn and some of the guys from his church went street preaching in Chicago. I've never been to Chicago, but I hear it's not an easy place for the gospel. I thought this took boldness and caused me to think about what I am (or am not!) doing that takes boldness for the sake of the gospel. You can read some of Joe's thoughts following their night out here. The second thing was a blogpost I read Friday night. It was a powerful post about caring for a homeless man and loving him in Christ. You can read it here.
After thinking about my need (and our church's need) to be bold for the gospel in our community, as well as thinking about that blogpost, I felt compelled to think about and plan to take the gospel to those who seem untouchable. I've done this overseas, but have failed in SWFL. There are many different types of people we could put into the category of untouchable. My thought is about those who the church oftentimes overlooks or has a fear of engaging. I've thought of a few: homeless, gang members, drug or alcohol addicts, prison, etc.
I feel compelled to take the gospel to them. But I feel compelled to in the First Thessalonians 2:8 way, "So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us." I stated a moment ago that I want us to genuinely care for those around us. I want them to be very dear to us. I asked a friend/church member this morning, "Would you still love them even if they never believed?" That's a tough question. Really tough! But that is the call. Whether they are neighbors or enemies, we are called to love them (Matthew 5:44, 22:39).
This is new to me. But I am compelled. I am compelled to love. And I am compelled by love. I am compelled by the love of Christ in my life to take the gospel to everyone I can in SWFL. And in particular to touch those who seem untouchable.
If you know of any resources, or churches/people doing this well, would you please let me know?