What’s Our Ultimate Purpose in Allendale?
Why are we here in Allendale?
That’s the question that I’ve been thinking about recently. I know what we’re doing here — we are serving as Scout, Settler, and Explorer. As scouts, we have “infiltrated” the culture, working hands-on with kids in the after school program (currently with almost 70 active members). As settlers, we are building relationships in this community. As explorers, we are “feet on the ground,” looking for opportunities for Grace Church.
So that’s what we are doing, but it doesn’t fully explain why we are here. What is our ultimate goal for living in Allendale?
Are we here to help meet essential physical needs? Are we here to help give the next generation the skills, education, and vision for future success? Or, maybe we are to be a light to this community with our good deeds (Matthew 5:14-16), as we pour in good, clear water?
These are all good things, and important parts of our being here. But, by the Spirit’s prodding, I am reminded that we must be about more than physical needs, future success, and good deeds.
We must preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is of first importance.
Education and Marriage
In Our Depraved Poor, David French writes about his experience doing ministry with at-risk youth. Initially, he thought that merely by giving kids love and a chance, he would be doing enough. But he soon realized his naivety, as he saw little or no lasting change.
He explains that “any anti-poverty efforts not aimed at getting kids to complete an education, get married, and stay married are a waste of time.” Studies show that people who receive an education and get / stay married very rarely live in poverty.
Poverty & The Gospel
So, does this mean we need to focus mainly on helping kids get a quality education and a healthy marriage? Maybe, but the problem is that without a heart change rooted in the gospel, there won’t be either the desire or the power to make these goals a reality for most kids in a culture of generational poverty.
In contrast, “One thing really worked. The Cross. . . It wasn’t about my words. It wasn’t about my effort. . . The kids who made it heard the Gospel, repented of sin, and were transferred through the renewing work of the Holy Spirit.”
No matter what else we do, we have to figure out a way to communicate the gospel. This must happen with our words, not just our deeds. Have you heard the saying, “Preach the gospel always; if necessary, use words,” by Francis of Assisi? Well, he never said it, and it’s not true anyway.
A Radical Idea
I recently began reading Radical by David Platt. You might think that with us just moving to Allendale this year, that we don’t need any more radical life change. But we do. Always.
I needed to be reminded by these words:
Every saved person this side of heaven owes the gospel to every lost person this side of hell. We owe Christ to the world — to the least person and to the greatest person, . . . A majority of individuals supposedly saved from eternal damnation by the gospel are now sitting back and making excuses for not sharing that gospel with the rest of the world.
Will my family and I continue to try to help meet essential physical needs? Yes.
Will we continue to try to help kids learn how to be successful in school, marriage, and all aspects of life? Absolutely.
Will we continue to be a light in Allendale, by how we model our marriage, parenting, and service to this community? We hope so.
Will we communicate the truth of the gospel verbally? We had better. We are here to Spread the Gospel in Allendale.
“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:31
Edit (November 2012): You can read about our reflection upon and vision for Allendale.