There is a church on Chestnut Street in West Philadelphia with a faded burgundy awning in the front. The words on the awning are written in large white letters and read “Gospel-Spreading Church.”
That is a good phrase to capture what we are trying to become at Tenth Presbyterian Church. In anticipation of our annual missions conference, I want to mention some of the characteristics of a gospel-spreading church.
1. It is committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. You have to know what the gospel is before you can spread it. This church is founded upon reading, teaching, and obeying the Bible. The heart of the Bible’s message is the good news about Jesus Christ, also known as the gospel.
The gospel is the good news of God’s forgiveness which answers the bad news about our sin. Jesus Christ died for our sins on the cross. He was so dead that he was buried, but on the third day God raised him from the dead to claim victory over sin and death. That is the gospel that saves everyone who believes it (see 1 Cor. 15:1-11).
2. A gospel-spreading church is committed to evangelism, which is simply a fancy word for sharing good news. Perhaps you have noticed that Tenth Presbyterian Church has no separate evangelistic ministry. There is nothing wrong with having an evangelism team, I suppose, but that is not how we understand evangelism. Sharing the good news is such a part of who we are that it is a part of everything we do.
Virtually every ministry in this church is an evangelistic ministry. The children’s Sunday School—the Bible School, as we call it—is evangelistic. Its purpose is to call boys and girls to faith in Jesus Christ, and then to help them grow in that faith.
The Tenth International Fellowship, the ACTS community dinner for the homeless, the AIDS Bible study at “We the People,” the Jewish Christian Ministry, the City Light singles fellowship, and so on and so forth… all these ministries are gospel-spreading ministries. Or, at least, they ought to be.
3. A third characteristic of the gospel-spreading church is that it is committed to planting new churches. The fact that we have committed ourselves to planting a church in Conshohocken in 1999 is an encouraging sign. It shows that we are concerned about something much more important than just running a program; we want to share the good news about Jesus Christ all the way across the city of Philadelphia.
Incidentally, if you haven’t been thinking about how you can help that new church get off the ground, you ought to be thinking about it. And if you are not sure whether you should join the core group or not, ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart to that possibility. Helping start a new church is one of the best ways to spread the gospel, and thereby to do something of lasting significance with your life.
4. A gospel-spreading church helps other churches. From time to time I get the sense that some people are a little bit proud of belonging to Tenth Presbyterian Church. For some people, belonging to the right church is a statement, kind of like wearing the right jacket or owning the right automobile. People start thinking that their church is just a little bit better than some other church.
That kind of attitude is a stench in God’s nostrils. It has no place in the church. A gospel-spreading church is so committed to the gospel that it rejoices when God blesses someone else. That is why we pray for the other churches and ministries in this city. That is also why Dr. Boice and the other pastors spend part of their time away from Tenth. It is so that we can be a help and an encouragement to other churches as they spread the gospel.
5. Finally, a gospel-spreading church has a passion for missions. It is not content with its own local ministry, it wants to play a part in winning the whole world for Jesus Christ. Jesus gave this command to his disciples: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). “You will be my witnesses.” That is the theme of our 60th annual missions conference.
In one sense, those instructions have already been carried out. The gospel has been taken from Jerusalem, through Palestine, to the ends of the earth. In another sense, there is still work to be done. The work will not be done until every people group has heard that God sent his Son to save us from our sins. In the meantime, we should think of ourselves as standing at the center of what God is doing in Christ by the Holy Spirit throughout the whole world.
A gospel-spreading church shows its sense of world mission by supporting its missionaries. It takes a vital and ongoing interest in their work. It welcomes them home. It prays for them and also pays for them.
Every time you put an offering into the plate—and designate it for missions—you are doing your part to share Jesus Christ with Muslims, to translate the Scriptures into the Indian languages of South America, to plant new churches in the Philippines, to reach the forgotten peoples of Eastern Europe, and to dozens of other things to spread the gospel.
Don’t you want to be a part of that? Don’t you want to have some role in spreading the gospel in this city and around the world?
The last thing to say is that the only way this church can be a gospel-spreading church is if you are a gospel-spreading Christian. That is rather obvious, but we need to be reminded of it again and again. The church is not an institution made up of various programs, the church is the people of God. You are the church. Whatever God wants to do in the world he will do through you. May God make you a gospel-spreading Christian so that we can become a gospel-spreading church.
© 2020 Tenth Presbyterian Church.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Phil Ryken. © 2020 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org