I recently taught a class on a Theology of Evangelism at a local conservative seminary. It was a most enjoyable class (and one of my favorite topics) full of significant young Christian leaders. My belief is that when we lovingly proclaim the gospel of Jesus that most often, friendship happens.
As a gift to the students, I asked Kevin Palau to come to class and contribute his significant perspective to our conversation. Kevin was fantastic!
If you don't know, Kevin is the son of renowned evangelist, Luis Palau and he is the current president of the Palau Evangelistic Association. Among his many ministry accomplishments, he has been instrumental, if not unprecedented, in his work to build partnerships between civic/city governments and church communities.
Kevin sat relaxed in front of my class, as if we were all lounging in his living room. He is almost giddy when he talks about the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus and the work of the Palau organization over the decades and especially today.
Then he shared about his work with the City of Portland and specifically the Mayor's office. "We just went in and told the mayor that we wanted to help. We, the evangelical church, have an incredible network of thousands and thousands of people who want to love this city. We have time, expertise and manpower. How can we help?"
According to Kevin, the Mayor and his staff were thankful and inspired by the invitation. Even Kevin was amazed by how much, over time, the city invited the faith community into partnership.
After a time of brainstorming about the most glaring needs in the city of Portland (again this was a City government generated list), seven areas of need were presented:
"Hunger, homelessness, healthcare, poorly financed public schools, foster care, human trafficking, and the environment"
With Kevin's words still floating in the middle of the room, I thought of Jesus' transformational commentary on the Kingdom in Matthew 25:
Then the King will say to those on His right, "Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;
(I was) naked, and you clothed Me;
I was sick, and you visited Me;
I was in prison, and you came to Me."
Then the righteous will answer Him, "Lord, when?"
The King will answer and say to them, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me."
(Matthew 25:34-37,40 NASB, format and bold mine)
Let's line those two lists up:
|Jesus' Words||City of Portland's Expressed Needs|
Public Schools (most often in Portland's poorest neighborhoods). Learn More Environment (global food/clean water)
Human Trafficking (sex industry)
Foster Care and Poor Public Schools are often populated with children of prisoners
The City of Portland, which Huffington Post just listed as America's Least Christian City, not only opened its doors to partnering with evangelical churches, but when they asked for help, they unknowingly asked us to fulfill Jesus' invitation to participate in the Kingdom of God. They basically asked us to be the church.