by Eric Swanson
Last month I was in Italy for a week, meeting with several pastors, groups of pastors, and parachurch leaders who are thinking about having a greater kingdom impact in their respective cities. Riding on the express train from Florence to
Rome with my friend, Dave Runyon—pastor at Foothills Community Church in Arvada (who has been meeting w/ Rome pastors for the past five years), we sketched out a diagram on the back of a napkin while we enjoyed a cappuccino. The two vectors were PROCLAMATION AND DEMONSTRATION. The “sweet spot” in the upper right hand corner represented the gospel at its historic best. I don’t use “historic best” as a reference to one golden age in the book of Acts but rather to reflect the idea that in every age there are those who understood that for the gospel to really be the gospel, expressed itself in word and deed—in passionate proclamation as well as compassionate demonstration. Sure, the gospel is why we have churches, but the gospel is why we also have hospitals, orphan care, food banks, AIDS hospices, etc.
When Jesus sent out his disciples in Luke 10, the gospel went forth in its historic best. “Heal the sick who are there (DEMONSTRATION) and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near to you.’…. (PROCLAMATION). Rodney Stark points out that in every age there are those who read the gospel with fresh eyes and discover and pass on the “pure stock” of the gospel—the gospel that comes in words of love and works of love.
In Italy the undersized evangelical church is very high on proclaiming the gospel, through street preaching, jungle mime and puppets, but very weak on demonstrating the gospel to the people around them. The Catholic Church in Italy is incredible in providing for the physical needs of the people but historically weak on proclaiming a clear and compelling gospel message.
During my first few days of my Italy experience, I was convinced that it was easier to help the high proclamation church get to the sweet spot through service and compassion because it was way too difficult to help the monolithic Catholic Church get to the sweet spot by learning to present a clearer and more compelling gospel message. But I was wrong.
I met Campus Crusade staff who were training Catholic youth groups how to share their faith. I met Elfie, an evangelical living in Florence, who is partnering with Catholics at the highest level to bring a clear gospel message to people through the movie Magdalena (http://www.magdalenamovie.com/ ). Interestingly, this week I got a note from my friend Cori Crawford who is working with Mexican Christians at the highest levels (both Catholic and Evangelical) to get this same Magdalena film shown on National Television on Good Friday. Perhaps the real leverage to get to the sweet spot is not getting proclamation churches to demonstrate the gospel but for demonstration churches to become those who also proclaim the gospel.
Where are you? Where is your church? High Proclamation, Low Demonstration? High Demonstration, Low Proclamation? Low Demonstration and Low Proclamation? What would you have to do to help move your church into the sweet spot of High Demonstration and High Proclamation where the presence and reality of Jesus and his kingdom is experienced in your community?