Shameless About the Gospel

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17

I love these particular scripture verses.  I just heard my friend, Enock De Assis, the Missions Pastor of Bel Air Presbyterian Church preach on them last Sunday.  He shared that at a critical time in his young life, when his mom ended her own life, he found faith in Jesus Christ as His Savior and that faith is what rescued him from a life of despair. I can’t share his whole message in a blog post, but wanted to reflect on the words nonetheless.

Union Rescue Mission, myself, and our staff often get questions on why we are a faith-based ministry, why we ask employees and Board members to sign a statement of faith.  At times the discussions are quite critical –we’ve even lost grants and funding support because we are a faith/Christ-based ministry.

Despite the questions and objections and even the loss of funding, we remain a Christ-based ministry, because as the passages above say, the Gospel is where our power comes from.  The Greek word is dunamis, like dynamite!

Lots of people do good things for many excellent reasons.  We at URM do good because of our faith in Jesus Christ.   We are compelled to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.  And yes, we believe, we do all that we do with the superhuman power given to us by Jesus Christ as we believe in and depend on Him.

Some say, “Well can’t you do good without sharing with your guests what you believe?”

We could, but then we would be remiss in not sharing the good news of why we do what we do and who we are. When personally asked this question, my answer is:

“What good is it, if I feed and provide houses for folks but don’t share my faith –the core beliefs that give me purpose and hope and not only keeps me going, but at times, miraculously deliver me, and as we have seen at URM, transform others?”  (I will get to those miracles in my next blog that will focus on “The Righteous shall live by faith!”)

When I first started working at a Rescue Mission 24 years ago, I walked unaware into a controversy.  A Mission with a Christ-based ministry had allowed friends to come onto their board of directors who did not share the same belief in Jesus Christ.  I was a young 27 year-old, brand new to the organization, and seated at the Board of Directors meeting.  I was probably expected to keep my mouth closed which is very difficult for me!

A motion was made and seconded to strike the words Jesus Christ from being mentioned at this Christ-based ministry. The Executive Director, a Chaplain, turned red in the face. I was in shock. I knew Romans 1:16-17 by heart from memorizing it in my youth.  Without hesitation I declared:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes!”

The meeting erupted for a moment.  Some around the table spoke to me in anger.  But the cool calm Chairman of the Board quickly called the meeting back to order.  There was a vote, and it was a draw, 6 to 6. 6 to continue as a Christ-based ministry, and 6 to discontinue speaking the name of Jesus Christ at this particular mission.  A rare tie at a Board of Directors meeting could cause an issue to be tabled for further discussion, or could go to the Chair for a deciding vote.  Our cool calm Chairman, courageously decided to cast a vote.  This man I will never forget voted to continue as a Christ-based ministry, which allowed us to keep preaching the Gospel of Christ, the dynamic power, to those who would volunteer to hear.

This testimony to my friend, the Board Chair, really displays that dynamic power in itself.  I shared this story at his funeral and his family members approached me after the funeral, upset, and proclaimed “that faith thing, that is not what Dad was all about. He was more involved in Union Organizing and you hardly mentioned that!”

So here it was, a man whose closest family didn’t even recognize his faith in Jesus Christ, at a critical moment in the life of a Christ-based ministry boldly cast the deciding vote to keep the ministry Christ-based! Where did that kind of courage come from?  It came from the same source that has kept URM alive and well for 119 incredible years of Christian ministry.  Why would we ever, for any reason, funding or not, withdraw ourselves from that dynamic source of power, the power that comes from our faith in Jesus Christ.

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