Have you felt the tension between helping people and preaching the gospel? Should we focus on spiritual needs or only care for physical needs? Or can we do both?
Many of us have felt this tension in our small groups, too. We feel the need to help our group members study and understand the Word. At the same time, we see physical and emotional needs that need to be met.
And when our groups serve in the community, we feel the tension. Is handing out food at a soup kitchen helping to spread the gospel—even if we never utter the name of Jesus? Should we include information about the gospel when giving financial handouts?
Krish Kandiah of the UK Evangelical Alliance shared his views on this tension at the Nines conference last week. He said that when we feel the tension, we tend to do one of two things:
Cling to the quotation we ascribe to Francis of Assisi (though there's no record of him speaking or writing this): "Preach the gospel; use words only if necessary."
Or, we decide that when preaching the gospel, only words are necessary.
To put it another way, when faced with the tension, we simply choose a side, focusing just on helping people or just on telling people about Jesus.
However, Kandiah points out an important fact: Jesus was an integrated person who handled this tension. We don't just have the red letters in our Bible; we also have what he did. Both his words and actions were important in ushering in the kingdom of God. In fact, if there ever was a person who could get away with doing only one of these, it was Jesus. And yet he gave us a different example. He showed us that we are to both live and speak the gospel. And in doing so, we will carry the message of God's redeeming love into the world.