“We serve our community because we love our community,” proclaimed the flyer from the new church in town. And in a matter of months they definitely gained a reputation for serving the community well. They painted a school, collected shoes for the homeless, picked up trash after community events, and cut up trees that blew over in a storm. It was impressive. And three years later, their church disbanded. That was a bit less than impressive.
As the person who recruited the church planter and helped find the initial funding to get the work started, I’ve long pondered how a church that did so many good deeds could fail. There came a moment when I realized that they had never turned their good deeds into gospel deeds.
What I mean by gospel deeds, is moments when we actually shared the life changing message of Jesus Christ with those we were serving. It retrospect, it becomes obvious that in the situation described above, the core group of the church plant spent so much time doing good deeds, that no one had the time to actually talk to the people they were serving about the Savior who had called them to serve in the first place. It was a colossal miscalculation on why we were doing the good deeds. The good deeds became an end unto themselves. But lots of activity, and being busy, does not automatically equal souls saved or lives changed.
Having been in New England a long time, and taken part in many such good deed efforts myself, I know that it is not always possible to verbally share a gospel presentation in every situation with every person. Sometimes there are rules in place that prevent it. Sometimes the person being served just isn’t interested in talking about spiritual things. Sometimes there are just too many distractions from the event itself that no one could hear or understand even if the gospel were shared. But surely, in three years of good deeds for the community, that church plant could have found a way to engage in some gospel deeds. The Lord surely provided the opportunities, they simply missed them.
I think this happens more than we’d like to admit. Not just in church plants, but in our personal lives as well. I think Christians should do good deeds. But we must always be intentional about finding ways to transform those good deeds into gospel deeds. Though we can say we love others through our actions, if we fail to verbalize the gospel, which can save their soul from hell, have we really loved them? In my opinion, if we fail to turn good deeds into gospel deeds, we cannot say we really loved our neighbor. So let us go forth and do good deeds, but let us also be intentional about turning those good deeds into gospel deeds.
Dr. Terry W. Dorsett has served in New England since 1993 as a pastor, author, and denominational leader. He currently serves as the Executive Director of both the Baptist Convention of New England and the Baptist Foundation of New England. He lives outside of Boston in Northborough, MA.