By Paul Wilkinson

The mission of Brentwood Baptist Church is to engage the whole person with the whole gospel of Jesus Christ anywhere, anytime with anybody. What does “engaging the whole person” look like to those who are not a part of our group and not a part of our broader faith community?
Essentially, we must take Galatians 6:10 (Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith) and 1 Timothy 3:7 (He must have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he does not fall into disgrace and the devil’s trap) seriously. We see from these two texts that we ought to:

  • Be working toward the good of others, which would entail physical and material support in addition to spiritual support, and
  • Be in good favor with those outside the community of faith, and it is certainly no incredible leap of reason to propose that investing in the lives of unbelievers in your community is a way to do that.

And, perhaps the archetype story for this perspective is the “Good Samaritan.” In that story, we see a Samaritan on a journey (so presumably, all of the following was out of his way) who showed compassion to a beaten and robbed stranger. Compassion, as described by Jesus in this story, consisted of bandaging wounds and supplying relief to wounds with olive oil and wine. Then this Samaritan puts the stranger on his own animal, the Samaritan presumably walks beside the animal, and he takes him to an inn to give him shelter. But he doesn’t stop there! He pays for the night’s lodging and continues to care for the brutalized stranger, and then he pays the innkeeper two days’ wages to take care of the stranger. Moreover, he promises to pay whatever else is needed in the upkeep of this individual, trusting both the innkeeper and the beaten stranger to not take advantage of the situation but be willing to cover it, if they did.
And of course, the pay-off to the questioner seeking to inherit eternal life is that he must not only love God but also love his neighbor. And Jesus really raises the bar on what it means to love a neighbor: caring for them physically and materially, in addition to spiritually! And all of that is before I mention that this expert in the law most certainly despised the impure ethnicity of the Samaritan, who is the hero of the story.
Do we expect unbelievers in active rebellion against God to see our message as authentic if we say we love them while turning a blind eye to their physical and material needs? And that’s not to say we wait to preach the Gospel until life feels comfortable for the unbeliever; we share the Gospel when the Holy Spirit convicts us to share the Gospel. Nevertheless, our words are vaccous if we say we care without attending to non-spiritual needs. Just imagine Jesus saying to us: I love you people, I really do, but I’m just not in the mood to become Incarnate to redeem you: it’s inconvenient, it’s a burden, and I’ve got better things to do like run the physical universe . . . but I love you! Instead, we know God loves us: God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
How are we leading our groups to care for the stranger physically and materially, that is, to engage the whole person? How are we provoking our groups to incarnate the Scriptures where they live, work, and play? Are we explicitly challenging them to serve the needs of strangers (read here unbelievers who might be, but are not necessarily, actual strangers)? Could you challenge the group to adopt a family? To adopt an elementary school? To adopt a neighborhood?
Pray about how you and your group might earn favor among outsiders and do good to them. Begin brainstorming with your group about how you might serve unbelievers physically and materially, all the while sharing the truth of Jesus Christ with them. And what if you were to invite along the lost and searching as you serve others to demonstrate to them what the kingdom of God truly looks like? Are we kingdom groups . . . can we become kingdom groups?