Among the many things I love about Immanuel Bible Church is our heart for mercy ministries and our heart for evangelism. What we need to see is how the one can powerfully serve the other. Writing for 9Marks Ministries, Pastor Michael McKinley outlines five ways mercy ministry serves evangelism.
1. Deeds of mercy demonstrate the character of Christ. An important part of our evangelistic witness is showing unbelievers the excellence of Christ, and one of the most beautiful aspects of our Savior’s character is his kindness to those in need (e.g., Luke 7:13). When we show love and compassion to those in need, we display Christ’s compelling love and character.
2. Deeds of mercy show the power of the gospel to change us. Similarly, when we help our neighbor we give evidence that our message is true. If we claim that the gospel has the power to change lives, then our mercy is one thing that proves it.
In a world where most people keep to themselves and only take care of their own, Christians have an opportunity to stun others with our inexplicable love and selfless service. We want people to be perplexed by our care so that they realize the only explanation is that Christians have been genuinely transformed by the good news.
3. Deeds of mercy model a pattern of discipleship. The Great Commission calls us to make disciples and teach them to obey all that Jesus commanded (Matt. 28:18-20). When Christians obey the Lord’s instructions to love our enemies and be sacrificially merciful to our neighbor, we model what is meant by the call to take up our cross and follow Jesus. The recipients of our mercy are invited to join us in a life lived in submission to the Savior.
4. Deeds of mercy acknowledge the human condition. The state of our flesh greatly impacts our lives. Life is more difficult when we are hungry, cold, intoxicated, sick, or in danger. And so evangelistic proclamation that doesn’t recognize the physical factors at work in the lives of its hearers risks being tone-deaf and insensitive.
It’s important that we recognize that there is an order to our needs, and that sometimes our greatest needs are not our most immediate needs. So we can say with confidence that the greatest need of every human being is to be reconciled to God through faith in Christ. But if someone comes to your door with a gaping head wound, that need, though lesser, is more urgent. First you must take care of the head wound, and then you should share the gospel.
5. Deeds of mercy generate opportunities to share the gospel. There’s an old saying: if you want a friend, be a friend. We all like to be around people who are kind to us, who take an interest in our lives, and who demonstrate a desire to help us. So, showing practical care to others is an easy way to build bridges into your community.