Read Acts 2:42-3:10
“The people of that church are loving.”
“That church really helps our community.”
“That church is concerned about more than filling their pews . . . or their offering plates.”
In my mind, those are the kinds of unsolicited comments that might be heard in an area of a church that is “enjoying the favor of all the people” (Acts 2:47). The first church in Jerusalem enjoyed that kind of favor. Apparently, even outsiders had an awareness of the church’s existence and its impact on the community. As a result, even those who weren’t part of the church nodded their heads and gave a thumbs up when they thought of the church and its people. The church had a positive reputation.
What does it mean for a church to have a positive reputation? I believe the answer to that question has changed during my lifetime. There was a time when a positive reputation was granted on the basis of the moral character of the leadership and doctrinal purity of the preaching. While, those things are still critical today, people . . . even those outside the church . . . are concerned about such things as justice and poverty. As a result, churches that address those issues often “enjoy the favor of all the people.”
Let’s be clear, such social action is not the gospel. But a concern for such things as justice and poverty is a natural product of the gospel’s impact. That is part of the reason for our church’s involvement in assisting under-resourced people. It is a driving force for the help we offer to widows, orphans, and abused children in Asia. It has caused us to drill water wells in Africa and to help families in hurricane-ravished places like Texas and Florida. This causes people to make friendly visits to nursing homes, build wheel chair ramps, offer assistance with homework, or throw a Christmas party for children of the incarcerated. Those are the kinds of things the gospel message motivates us to do . . . and, ironically, those are the kinds of things that give a church a positive reputation in the community.
As you look to share the truth of Jesus with someone today, perhaps you will have opportunity to point to a ministry or two that could serve the person to whom you are talking. Or, perhaps, by mentioning it, the person will come to realize that Grace is a church that has the good of the world in mind.