I started reading Martin Lloyd Jones’ companion guide to the Sermon on the Mount a couple days ago. Titled Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, the book is a collection of sermons Jones preached on the topic some 60 years ago. I’m only 30 pages in but I found I have found several gems so far. One in particular got me thinking about the Village Church. Referring to Christians living out the teachings in the Sermon on the Mount Jones wrote:
“But this is what I want to leave in your minds. I suggest to you it is the best means of evangelism. Surely we all ought to be urgently concerned about this at the present time. The world today is looking for, and desperately needs, true Christians. I am never tired of saying that what the Church needs to do is not to organize evangelistic campaigns to attract outside people, but to begin herself to live the Christian life. If she did that, men and women would be crowding into our buildings. They would say, ‘What is the secret of this?’”
This word is good not simply because it conveys what our goal should be, but also shows us that our efforts are not good enough in and of themselves.
What is our goal in the Village Church? Besides first and foremost worshiping God week in and week out, we are to preach the Gospel-to tell others about the love of God and the sacrifice of His son Jesus. How are we to best do that? By first learning to live as if we really understand what it means to love God and our neighbors. Just as it was 60 years ago when MLJ was preaching our world today desperately needs true Christians. Our neighborhood needs true Christians. The Church needs true Christians.
Jones encourages us to be “true Christians”, and to “live the Christian life”. But what exactly does he mean by this? He certainly didn’t mean something like the popular quotation of St. Francis of Assisi that we should “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” He meant that we are to live out the Christian life as it is laid out in the Bible. To do that we are to both live in such a way as we are taught by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and to preach the Gospel as we are encouraged to so often by the apostle Paul.
The point that MLJ makes in the above quotation that struck me as particularly important for the Village Church is that there is no scheme, no plan, no special program that we can do to draw people to Christ that would be better than if we ourselves were to pursue holiness in such a way that we would be marked by the transformative power of the Holy Spirit.
As we approach the beginning of our second year as the Village Church let us heed the words of Martin Lloyd Jones.