Recently, I was given the opportunity to share a brief message regarding Mercy Ships’ Philosophy of Ministry with our newly-hired Day Crew from Congo. Since then, several of our resident Crew have asked if I would share the notes from that talk. I feel it is fitting to post them here on LikeTreesPlanted, because it does address an important aspect of our lives as followers of Jesus: missions / evangelism / faith-sharing. Hope you enjoy!
There are two main ways to share the Gospel.
One way is to proclaim the Gospel – to share the Good News about God’s love using our words. To speak with others – to tell them, verbally, about His grace and His plan for redeeming humanity back to Himself. To share, to speak, to tell – this is to proclaim – and so this is called the proclamational method.
The second way is to come, in person, and live out the Gospel – to demonstrate the Good News about God’s love using our actions, our presence, and our lives. To move into the neighborhood – to live and work among others – to exhibit His grace and His plan for redemption. To personally embody – to come in the flesh – this is to incarnate the Gospel – and so this is called the incarnational method.
Jesus did both, but He prioritized the incarnational method. He certainly proclaimed the Good News on a regular basis, but He did so within the larger context of personally living and serving in the flesh – incarnate – among the people, in the midst of their constantly ongoing everyday lives, as one of them.
This is the example of God. God is all-powerful and infinitely creative! He could have come up with any way that His unlimited imagination could have thought of, and this is how He chose to share the Gospel with the world: by coming, Himself, in the flesh – incarnate – to become a man and to live a human’s life in the midst of humanity. He moved into the neighborhood, lived as one of us, and showed us the Good News of God.
God had every right to remain in heaven and to simply proclaim His love for us and His plan for redemption from there. He could have simply proclaimed from heaven (Using bullhorn, say,) “I see you! I see your pain and our great separation. I see where you are and what you need. I love you! And I have a good plan for you. A plan to redeem you back to Me. To restore you to right relationship with Me. A plan for you to enjoy my happiness, with Me, forever!”
He could have used this proclamational method only, and it would have been fine. That could have been enough – if He had wanted it to be enough…
…but obviously proclamation was not enough, because that’s not what God chose to do. He chose something different.
He chose to leave heaven behind. He chose to physically come to earth, Himself, in the flesh, and to live out His love, His grace, and His plan of redemption right here among us! He hand-delivered the Good News to us, in person.
(Pick someone sitting in the back of the room. Have that person stand and wave – have everyone turn and look at him, so they see where he is. Then say,) Imagine (that person) has been stranded in the desert for three days with no supplies. He is dehydrated, and he won’t survive for much longer without water.
(Now pick up bullhorn from the table and say,) “Hey! Hey you! I can see you there! I can tell you are dehydrated! What you need is some water. Water will save your life! It is refreshing and healing, and you won’t survive much longer without it. Just find some water, and you’ll be saved!”
Now, I have just proclaimed a plan of salvation for the person. I have clearly explained the merits of water – its healing and saving abilities. I have told the person (from afar) what he needs to be rescued. He just needs some water! This is a picture of the proclamational method by itself.
(Now, pick up the pitcher of water on the table, and pour some into a glass.) But here is a picture of the incarnational method. (Start walking towards the person.) I have the life-giving water right here. (Keep walking.) I can carry to the person exactly what he needs – I can take it right to him! (Finish walking up to the person and say,) “Here. Here is the healing you need for right now. Now follow me; I know the way out of this desert.”
This is our Philosophy of Ministry in Mercy Ships. Following the example of Jesus, we have left our homes. We have come – ourselves, in the flesh – and have moved into the neighborhood. We have brought the tools (such as we have) and the abilities God has given us to bring physical healing and holistic hope.
We accept all patients, free of charge, and with no strings attached. And from this platform of incarnation – coming to live and work among them – we can proclaim (and demonstrate!) the Good News about God’s loving plan for ultimate hope and healing.