The Gospel of the Brothel

by Laura on November 1, 2012

My husband has been into over 300 bars and brothels in SE Asia looking for victims of sexual exploitation, and the strange thing is, he’s  re-learned the Gospel more powerfully in that setting than anything he’s ever experienced in a church building.

Funny that he would find Jesus in a strip club. 

But he did, and still does.

Because each time he enters these places, these smoky halls with grime on the bars and music with volumes that induce a headache, he thinks of Jesus invading humanity, entering the brothel that is our world, what with its dirt and brokenness and abuse. He steps into literal darkness, and he wonders what it must have been like for Jesus to leave Throneroom and enter brothel, where the scene of slavery is played out in a million different stories. 

And Matt will say that he sees himself as all of the players there– the prostitute, the pimp, even the customer– all broken and searching, trapped in prisons, some of their own choosing,  all desperately in need of redemption and freedom, of justice and Life.

And my husband, in his imperfect nature, gets to taste a corner of what it must have been like for Jesus to walk back alleys and dirty lanes in this place called earth. To search for the treasures hidden in darkness.  To fight and bleed out and even die for their redemption.

And this, this, is Gospel. It is remembering the invasion of a Holy God  into a dark pit, where souls are bought and sold,  used and trapped. It is not staying clean, staying separate, staying unaffected. Contrary to what our religious culture might tell us, the Gospel is not safe and comfortable, and it sure as hell is not always PG. When we choose to usher in the Kingdom, we are choosing to advance into the darkness.

And the darkness never promised to be a pretty place–

There might be awful, honest conversations with a spouse there or uncomfortable evenings rubbing shoulders with “those” people.

There might be heartache from saying goodbye to a foster child or grief from owning up to our own messes.

Participating in Gospel might mean inconvenient holiday meals or money thrown away or sleepless nights or hard pursuit or shattered dreams.

It might even mean late nights in seedy parts of town that make your skin crawl and leave your soul raw, as you witness treasures being sold for the price of a bottle of cheap wine.

But this is Gospel remembered and played out– Love that entered a brothel and somehow fought blood-spattered-hard to restore the customer, forgive the pimp, and free the prostitute.

And every time we choose to enter a dark place ourselves, any time we opt to engage rather than to hide, for the sake of Love and of redeeming something lost, we get to taste a little Gospel ourselves.

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In talking with many churches and individuals all across the country, we have heard some say they are hesitant to support our work in SE Asia because we are not actively giving the gospel to the girls our investigators are finding and pursuing rescue for. What do you think? Should the gospel be a requirement for Christian humanitarian aid?

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A huge thank you to the kind ladies who donated towards our $200 giveaway last week! These shop owners have practically fought slavery through their generosity, and I am personally so. very. thankful. The seven winners that won a product are {order listed receive the prize in order listed in giveaway post}: Sarah P, Jessica P., Susan H., Heather F.,  Krista S., Rebekah P., and Amylou. You each will be receiving an email this week letting you know the details of your prize! Thanks to all who participated and showed support for The Exodus Road.

  • http://www.junglehope.wordpress.com/ Lana

    Some Christians tick me off. I’m a Christian, so I’m not trying to generalize here. But this really makes me rethink the whole doctrine of hell.

    On other note, sad all the farangs at bars.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      I hear you. It can be frustrating for sure. But I think it does warrant a good conversation about the importance of SPIRITUAL health beyond PHYSICAL health, and yet, and yet, I do think in this situation, it’s really hard for girls to have hope of spiritual freedom without first tasting a physical freedom.

      And yes, that area has lots of Westerners, but there are actually more locals who engage in prostitution than foreigners, believe it or not.

      • http://www.junglehope.wordpress.com/ Lana

        hey, we’re not fright for you. I’m pretty sure Jesus gets upset at our narrow mines too. There is no where in the Bible where it talks about feeding the poor that also says, “and you better share the gospel at the same time.” As the person above pointed out, our actions tell a million words. I can see that the westerners are in it for the beer, but they are still part of the problem because they are feeding the whole thing.

  • LoriWest

    You are BEING the Gospel. You are BEING Jesus to those precious souls. They say you are not “giving the Gospel” to these people?!!! Is not BEING the hands, feet and heart of Jesus more powerful than a rote Gospel presentation? You are a LIVING GOSPEL PRESENTATION! OK, I am getting heated. Thank God that He is not as narrow and limited as the reluctant church leaders you’ve encountered and is much more patient than me. :-) Keep up His good work Parkers! <3

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Oh, thanks, Lori.

      You are awesome.

      I promise I wasn’t trying to make people upset or feel the need to fight for us . . . i agree that physical rescue IS a form of GOSPEL. Absolutely. But, I think my question, and the one church leaders have sometimes, is

      “What good is physical wholeness (like having enough food to eat, having safe housing, having personal freedom) if spiritual wholeness is not addressed first? Isn’t the spirit more important?”

      I think that is the question they are having, and I can see it’s merit on a lot of levels. But I would contend that fighting for justice IS indeed part of a spiritual reformation, even if the “four spiritual laws” are not exactly involved. hmmmmm . . .

      Regardless, you are a gem. Made me feel championed today.

      • pastordt

        Laura – the trouble with separating out physical from spiritual is that THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT JESUS CAME TO SHOW US NOT TO DO. We are of a piece – and if we are not ministering to the whole person, then we’d better fold up our tents and get the heck outta Dodge. Do you remember what the early church was known for? Going into the homes where the plague had hit and nursing, caring, tending. NOT handing out tracts or preaching I-see-that-hand sermons. We cannot separate these things – all of it is gospel ministry. If those who are leading the ministry are tending their own spiritual (and physical) health and are seeking God’s guidance – then whatever they do – WHATEVER THEY DO – is gospel. This is a beautiful, beautiful essay and I’m sharing it on Facebook and tweeting it NOW. Thank you, love you.

        • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

          Thanks so much for your encouragement tonight on this. You speak such truth and wisdom, as always. Love that point about not separating physical from spiritual, and the reminder that the early church was all about socially caring for the poor.

          Thanks, as always, for visiting here, friend.

          L

        • http://twitter.com/sunsetstormx09 sunset stormx

          I am so thankful for this.. In the midst of severe sorrow I’m going through (losing a daughter) this brought some light to my sadness.

    • http://twitter.com/sunsetstormx09 sunset stormx

      amen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Erin Cook

    This is really refreshing to me. While reading it, I couldn’t help but fill in my own “Participating in the Gospel may mean…”

    Like it may mean buying 65 kids all their blasted school requirements because that’s what a parent does and we’re (our organization) the closest thing to that right now. It may mean falling in love with a little one whose own mother tried to kill her by throwing her into a latrine…knowing I could never call her my own. It may mean being called to the scene as a boy collapses from kidney failure and dies at your feet, then having to endure two days of bring in the mortuary, hearing about the autopsy, and organizing a funeral for a 14 year old.

    It’s in the messy, gut wrenching, make you weary beyond belief stuff in which we both find and embody Jesus. So, thanks for reminding me that what you’re doing, what we’re doing, what I’M doing is participating in the Gospel, and not just playing some sick game with the powers of the world and this country.

    Oh, and to answer your question, I think that if you’re not living a life in that Christian humanitarian aid that makes it obvious you live differently, then no amount of giving the gospel will matter. Live it. Be it. People will be transformed.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Wow, Erin, powerful comment here on so many levels. I love that your story speaks this, that you are living this right now. It is an inspirational picture of Gospel coming down . . . .

      And loved your last paragraph. Keep ushering in Kingdom, friend.

  • http://twitter.com/theBossyMom Susan Hill

    I was reading along, so glad for how God is being lived in the middle of all this…and then I read the comment that some churches are hesitant to help because they don’t feel the gospel is being given out. {omw.} Seriously? Now maybe I understand even better why when Jesus came to earth, the religious ‘system’ was the main thing fighting Him. {Ironic, huh? Fighting the very One who created you.} And now, I guess, religion still continues to fight what He wants to do authentically through us. Oh, well. Keep up the great work. You may not be ‘giving’ the Gospel {according to some people’s standards}…but you sure are ‘living’ it.

  • Charity Njesada

    This was a really powerful post and something I, myself, have wrestled with on a number of occasions. It’s tricky. But I’ve come to realize that Jesus’ model was often meeting physical needs before spiritual. Hungry people don’t listen to a sermon well. Feed first. Sick people can’t understand spiritual healing. Heal (help) first. Etc. And sometimes, the first thing you do (feed, help, heal, etc.) is the only thing you do {i.e. some plant seeds, some water the seeds, etc.} I believe rescuing people physically provides them the opportunity they may never have to be rescued spiritually, even if the rescues are by different folks at different times. We sure do limit God, huh, and try to make things systematic, with neat lines and simple answers? He is WAY bigger than us, and His ways much higher! (And thankfully so!) Thanks for such thought-provoking posts.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Charity, my thoughts, exactly.

  • LB

    I love “engage rather than hide.” J and I were just talking about the man who “hid his talent” and how when we don’t DO something–even if we stink at it or don’t like it–then we are hiding our talent. Our fosters just left and in looking back on their six months with us, we feel like we did more wrong (not Christlike) than we did right. But to give up fostering completely and return to life as normal would be to bury the talent in fear of the harsh master. Engage and not hide. Even when it stinks. (And to answer your question, “Preach the gospel always; and if necessary, use words.”)

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      LB,

      You are amazing. I love your honesty, your truth, your obedience to love-radical. It challenges me every time I think of you guys.
      Glad you are not giving up on fostering- those kids are blessed to rub shoulders with you guys, mistakes and all.

      And, that last quote? Think I might have to add that to the post itself, it’s so perfect. Thanks, friend.

  • http://www.facebook.com/richelle.wright Richelle Wright

    Great thoughts, Laura – in fact, I appreciate and am challenged by so much of this post! I also appreciate you asking this question and recognizing the validity of those who struggle with that qualification.

    Should the gospel be a requirement for Christian humanitarian aid? There are so many Scriptures that come to mind: Isaiah 61, Matthew 11, Luke 4, Luke 7 – where Jesus’ mission is described as both – meeting physical needs, rescuing, healing and preaching the Gospel. Jesus entered the darkness of this world to rescue us, but He is also the Word. We have been called to a ministry of reconciliation, but I guess I’d prefer to say – the gospel should be a primary goal of Christian humanitarian aid.

    But is there a precise formula for what that looks like? And does that mean that one person or one organization has to do it all? Jesus did… but *news flash* we ain’t Him! We strive to imitate Him, but we’ll always fall short. Could there be a single organization focusing on physical and spiritual? I think so. I’m also convinced there could be an affiliated chain of organizations where each one specializes in the areas God has called and given them specific talents, abilities and burdens.(I seem to remember another post but I can’t remember if you wrote it – about rescuing babies thrown into the river???) We are a body and each member needs to do his/her part. One goes into the brothel and rescues and one goal of that rescue is an opportunity to encourage the rescued to move one step closer towards the Lord, maybe through some sort of rehab/restoration program where the gospel is presented.. Isn’t that all we can do anyway? Encourage and point those in need to the One who can meet their needs. We can’t force anyone to admit need or take advantage of what Christ offers.

    One of the dangers of that “chain” mentality is that if the gospel isn’t officially a part of the ministry description, it becomes an excuse to remain silent – to automatically stop after the physical rescue. We are exhorted, however, to always be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have. For me to be able to support a work like what you are doing, I’d need to know that one of your primary goals is to be a step in the process of this ministry of reconciliation. Would I expect that to happen in every rescue or would I even look at numbers? Absolutely not – but I would want to know that that is your heart. Based on what I’ve seen of you and your hubby, I believe it is and thus I would be delighted, given the opportunity, to stand behind and with you in this ministry. I already am, in prayer.

    This is already long, and I hope it is making sense… I had one other thought. As one of those who has done that whole seeking support thing, we must graciously and without any rancor accept the “I’m sorry, I can’t partner with you in this venture.” We don’t have to take it as a personal insult, but instead assume the best – recognize that if someone can’t participate with a clear conscience, it is quite likely that God is leading them a different direction . Differing directions do not mean one is right, the other, wrong, particularly when both are seeking the Lord… Until proven differently, I’d rather choose to believe both are obeying God and He has them filling very different roles in His Kingdom.

    Thanks – for once again prompting important dialogue!

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Loved this comment, Richelle– and followed along quite nicely! I totally agree that you can’t separate the two– physical and spiritual. But at the same time, embracing one shouldn’t be an “excuse” not to engage the other.
      And yes, those that say “no” to supporting us deserve the freedom to be lead differently. I think for me, I am still learning the “tougher skin” I need to deal with rejection.

      Thanks, my friend in Africa,

      L

  • Jeremy

    This is good. A good discussion, and a good description of what is
    happening in our world – a reflection of what happens in our souls without a
    Redeemer. On the question of whether or not the gospel is a requirement for
    Christian humanitarian aid, I wonder why we’re asking. And this question
    seems to be coming up a lot. It seems as if a lot of Christian folks these
    days want to distance themselves from the Gospel. There’s probably a better
    way to say that, but that is how it comes across to me. Is not the Gospel
    the essence/reason/motivation for Christian anything? By Gospel, I believe
    we’re all referring to the Truth, also known as the Way, also known as the
    Life: our Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. He is the Gospel. And so then we
    lead into a discussion of the completeness of the Gospel that we present.
    Surely, a portion of the truth of the Gospel is the love, compassion, grace,
    sacrifice, and charity shown by physical aid to physically hurting,
    desperate, and broken people. And just as surely is the fact that their
    physical hurt, desperation, and brokenness is, at least in-part, a
    reflection of the condition of their soul. The presentation of loving in
    the Truth, physically, should be a natural extension of loving in the Truth
    spiritually. And vice versa. The degree to which the Gospel is presented
    or directed to those that are being ministered to is another discussion.
    I.e. are people rescued and left, or rescued and directed toward someone who
    can and will introduce them to their True Savior. But if there is no
    ultimate plan to introduce them to their eternal fate with and without
    Jesus, then what have we really done for them? None of us want to see those
    miraculously saved from temporary hell, then enter an eternal one. In
    short, the answer is “yes!”.
    James 1:27 AND Acts 26:17-18

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      J,

      I agree with this for sure:

      But if there is no
      ultimate plan to introduce them to their eternal fate with and without Jesus, then what have we really done for them?

      But, I think the thing we struggle with is people saying this:

      “If we can’t nearly-guarantee eternal salvation for her, then we should direct our efforts elsewhere and not waste resources.”

      In other words, if we can’t control the outcome, then why spend the time and effort in rescuing her from the brothel? I think for us, this is the rub. Because, unfortunately, while we can really push for a girl to be put in Christian aftercare, ultimately it is the government’s decision. And yet, for us, regardless of the outcome or her ability to be exposed to the gospel in words (even if after a rescue, she is placed in another aftercare facility and not connected with us) we still just can’t leave her in the brothel. It’s just a messy circumstance.

      Love your thoughtful words, as always. I know you and LB know in reality what it means to pursue the broken child and love at great cost. I admire ya’ll for that.

      • Ericka Jackson

        I just want to say that I’m totally on the same page with you Laura. As someone who has been in the brothels and slums and leper colonies and orphanages – I loved this whole blog. I’ve been burned in the past by ministries that cared more about how many gospel presentations were made each day instead of how many homeless people/street kids we loved like Jesus. It seems many churches and Christian organizations these days are far too concerned with numbers (how many gospel presentations, how many bibles given out, how many salvations) than they are loving people like Jesus did!

        I’m not saying we don’t present the gospel. I’m not saying we don’t try to lead people to Christ, but I am saying lets meet their felt needs FIRST. I believe Jesus set the example for us in doing that. He didn’t just stand on picnic tables and preach at people all day everyday. He didn’t badger every stranger on the street with his Evange-cube. He showed people loved and compassion. He built relationships with people and he met felt needs. He fed the 5,000 when they were hungry! Not just with a sermon, but with real food! Then there is example after example of him healing the sick. He didn’t first preach at them, and THEN heal them. He healed them. Plain and simple. “They will know we are Christians by our love.” A hungry person doesn’t feel love when someone presents the Roman Road to them. That will not take away the gnawing in their stomach! A hungry person feels love when they are fed a sandwich. The rest will come in time…

        I think too about how Jesus said the GREATEST commandment is to love the Lord, and the 2nd greatest is to love your neighbor as yourself. Do I want my neighbor to receive eternal life? Absolutely! But I should also want to be sure my neighbor is free, safe, and healthy. I know if I was kidnapped and sold against my will, I would sure hope someone would rescue me! In fighting for these girls, you are proving that you love them and care about them. In rescuing them, you are showing them the love of Christ! I too am shocked that so many churches/orgs can’t see that.

        And may I add – do we really think that if we leave these precious girls locked away in brothels, getting raped every night, that they will have many (if any) opportunities to have the gospel presented to them? Wouldn’t they have more opportunities if they had their freedom?

  • Nikole MacGregor

    I am new to your blog and i love it. I read this and it resonated so much with my life. I even shared it with my husband this morning. We work in a community in Mombasa, Kenya. Its a dark community thats seems to be so broken on a bajillion different levels. But just like you guys, we have learned, lived, experienced the gospel more in this community than anywhere else. It’s not comfy – in fact many days I come home in tears and wash my feet because of the awful places we have trudged. But we see hope, light, redemption, and restoration seeping into it. Its so awesome to be apart of.

    I have encountered so many different christian aid agencies and all of them have different ways of doing things. There are the ones who throw tracts and bibles into the hands of everyone they meet while laying hands to pray for them and there are the ones who slowly build relationships over a long period time never even having faith conversations with the people they work with. I think every community and place requires a different approach according to the circumstances and it takes time to understand and figure out the best way to preach the gospel in that area. For instance, our community has blended Christianity and Islam to the point where some people don’t even know which principle belongs to which faith. Many people know the bible but do not understand a personal relationship and abundant life Christ offers. So we have different ways of ‘preaching’ that to them. Most of the time we pray about it, learn from our mistakes, and try something until we figure out what works.

    Anyways, thanks for the wonderful post!

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Nikole,

      Wow, sounds like you could teach us all some important things from your work there! Sounds intense. THanks for your grace and honesty in this comment– in the “yes it is hard” and “yes we all do it differently” and “yes, some missions agencies/people really screw it up” and “yes, sometimes i do too”–

      ahhh, YES.

      Lots of love and prayers from here to there, friend.

      Keep loving and gospel-preaching in “word and deed”,

      Laura

  • http://www.ntm.org/david-abbott David Abbott

    Social justice is good, but how can it be claimed as “Christian?” People from every spectrum of belief do good things for other people. “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words” is like saying “Feed the hungry, and if necessary use food.” Somewhere in every outreach that is done in the name of the Christian “good news,” meaningful verbal communication must take place about the substance of our position before God, God’s solution and our response. Because we’re not trying to keep people from being unqualified for the presence of God; we’re all damned already without a response to the gospel.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      David, I appreciate your thoughts, but I have to say I disagree in some regards. While verbal communication is important, I do believe that actions can speak gospel, too. In fact, I think oftentimes the mistake Christians make is that we SAY too much without enough genuine LOVING ACTION to back up our words. I think this is what I am bucking up against– this idea that if the “four spiritual laws” aren’t communicated, then a girls rescue from a brothel isn’t worth the effort.

      Thanks, as always, for your comments, David.

      • http://www.ntm.org/david-abbott David Abbott

        Laura, You’re an outstanding communicator and I think you’re doing a great service through your writing and a good work through social justice. Do you believe that a person can be reconciled to God apart from specific repentance from sin and self and turning to Jesus Christ and his finished and complete payment for sin alone? …That’s what I’m saying can’t happen without verbal communication. Without a biblical response to “the Gospel” (1 Cor. 15) anything we do in terms of good works makes no eternal difference for those who are being rescued. (John 3:18) Absolutely Christ-followers should be all about loving people and doing good works, but without the inclusion of verbal teaching the “Great Commission” has not been obeyed. (Matt 28:18-20)

        • http://www.angiewashington.com/ Angie Washington

          I believe that Matt and Laura DO indeed include a verbal communication of the gospel.

          Is a Christian lawyer no longer called a Christian because she doesn’t make a verbal presentation of the gospel in every closing argument? Christian humanitarian aid is Christian because those who run it are Christians.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gina.rizzoorr Gina Rizzo-Orr

    I believe that the only social justice is the Gospel. Reaching out to hurting people means being gentle and kind and maybe not preaching at them. The Gospel of grace and reconciliation shines through the eyes of His people and when that is recognized by the person we are ministering to, the Holy Spirit will give the words to say in the right timing. Which may be a minute or a year after your first encounter with that broken person. Social justice without the Gospel is only a band aid, but social justice with the Gospel “in God’s timing” is true and complete justice.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      I love that difference you draw between social justice and social justice w/ the Gospel. One being a bandaid and one being true and complete justice. Thanks, Gina.

  • Tamara

    Another great post that will take some time and prayer to digest fully. thanks.
    Makes me kinda sick to think that a church or a believer would criticize you for not preaching the Gospel THE WAY THEY WOULD HAVE YOU DO IT! Yes. Yelling.
    And love the quote from LB about preaching the Gospel! The basic needs of people (see Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs) must be at a certain level before they can begin to accept a concept such as faith.
    Hugs from across town!

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      I like that point about people’s physical needs often needing to be met to get their souls at a place of being able to digest/consider the gospel truth. Though I know some would say that the spiritual need always. trumps. everything. And should be the leading effort always. I tend to agree with you in that, especially in cases of trauma/extreme need, to lead with “gospel truth” without first meeting physical needs seems counterintuitive.

      • Tamara

        LOVE the word ‘counterintuitive’!
        I’m thinking that when doing the ‘first meet physical needs’, we must always, ALWAYS do those things with the attitude of servant. In that way, we aren’t the great white hope but are ser-vants through whom the Gospel will shine without the words of the Gospel coming out of our lips. Hugs from here!

      • Guest

        Jesus said when do it to the least of these my brethren you have done it unto me. Isn’t that just kinda applicable here? I am astounded at people criticizing for not doing the Gospel in a boxed manner. God is not like this. How did people end up like this? Isn’t this what Jesus warned us about? When you give a drink of water, when you do not turn away the little children……….Jesus is all about loving people by meeting their tangible needs.

  • http://www.angiewashington.com/ Angie Washington

    Should the gospel be a requirement for Christian humanitarian aid?
    Yes.
    Should the gospel be a requirement for Christians who teach in schools?
    Yes.
    Should the gospel be a requirement for Christians who are plumbers?
    Yes.
    Should the gospel be a requirement for Christians who are stock brokers?
    Yes.
    Should the gospel be a requirement for Christians are stay at home moms?
    Yes.
    Should the gospel be a requirement for Christians?

  • Tanja V

    As a missionary to Latin America and later Africa for many years, I have struggled
    many times with the question you are posing, Laura. And my answer can only come
    out of my knowledge of the Eternal Word – He that wrote it. The God I see in
    the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments, shows us a heart broken for the
    poor and needy, the foreigner, the orphan, those mistreated by a corrupt
    justice system, the sick. This God we love provides an eternal solution to our
    problem of being lost – through salvation in Jesus Christ. But he also provides
    a way of life that brings blessing and release from suffering in the present. Look
    at all the practical laws God gave Israel in the wilderness after the ten
    commandments! Laws that concern health, sanitation, the justice system, food,
    etc…. God is interested in our quality of life today as well as our eternal
    salvation. While in the long term, eternal salvation is a greater goal, I don’t
    believe that easing the present pain of our “neighbours”, be a child sold into
    sexual slavery or a hungry person or whatever, is less valuable than sharing
    the gospel in words. There is a time for everything, and we have to respect
    human beings as just that, humans. With needs and desires that might not at the
    time include hearing the four spiritual laws or whatever tract we have to give
    out. Maybe we need to help them with their (physical/present) problem today,
    because that IS what Jesus would have done, but without pushing a tract at
    them. Maybe tomorrow, or the next week, or year, we’ll meet them again and have
    a chance to share with them the One that inspired us to go out and help them in
    the first place.

    So my answer is NO. Preaching the gospel in words is not a requirement for Christian
    humanitarian aid. If a group of Christians want to establish an NGO to minister
    to some humanitarian need or other, they should feel just as free to do that as
    their “job”, as somebody who works as a teacher, a cleaning person, a baker or
    anything else. They can spend all their time ministering in practical ways to
    humanitarian needs and I would say “Amen!” to them. And if they have a chance, after
    they get off work, to share the gospel with those they are also serving in
    practical ways, then of course they should do that. But they shouldn’t feel
    like it’s not “allowed” or valuable in and of itself to do good works or
    provide humanitarian relief without attatching it to a preaching of the gospel
    at the same time. God loves people and want to help them in their distress.
    When Christians do that, they are imitating Him.

  • dtaylor

    I am a little late on this discussion, but thought I would share anyway. Laura, I stumbled across your blog and I am thankful for it. Thanks for your honesty and transparency. Thanks for being real and sharing it with others. Thanks also for your work in SE Asia and combating human trafficking and slavery. I am trying to be obedient in following Jesus in Uganda for the last three years. I can say that most (if not all) of what you have written I have experienced, scratched that, struggled through.

    The quote that is being used “preach the gospel always and when/if necessary use words” is often attributed to Francis Assisi, but to my knowledge he never said this. I often hear this quoted in defense of social justice or a social gospel. I think there must be both social action and verbal presentation. One without the other can be empty to its hearers. I think both (physical actions and words spoken) should always be present. Romans 10:14-15 says: 14But how can people call on him if they have not believed in him? How can they believe in him if they have not heard his message? How can they hear if no one tells the Good News? 15How can people tell the Good News if no one sends them? As Scripture says, “How beautiful are the feet of the messengers who announce the Good
    News.”

    I also think the primary statement of “preach the gospel always and when/if necessary use words” is NOT an argument to merely live out the gospel in front of people or by simply doing good deeds to people, especially those in need. I think the primary statement is for our words and actions to match and line up. To preach the gospel and not have love is like a clanging cymbal (irritating and annoying). To give people water but not tell them about the life giving water of Jesus is just as wrong. How do we really help someone if all we do is address their physical need without addressing their spiritual need. And visa-versa.

    James2:14-18 says: 14My brothers and sisters, what good does it do if someone claims to have faith but doesn’t do any good things? Can this kind of faith save him? 15Suppose a believer, whether a man or a woman, needs clothes or food 16and one of you tells that person, “God be with you! Stay warm, and make
    sure you eat enough.” If you don’t provide for that person’s physical needs, what good does it do? 17In the same way, faith by itself is dead if it doesn’t cause you to do any good things. 18Another person might say, “You have faith, but I do good things.” Show me your faith apart from the good things you do. I will show you my faith by the good things I do.

    I have friends that serve near the horn of Africa and if they do not speak of what they believe early on in their conversation with someone then to bring it up later on in the conversation or the next time you meet they believe it was not very important to you since you did not speak of it first. I know this is cultural and don’t think we ought to start all of our conversations with “let me tell you about Jesus”, but I believe our words and our actions, as well as our actions and our words should be married together. Inseparable!

    No one can control the outcome of what happens when we share the gospel. God draws people to Himself. The Spirit convicts us of our sin and the truth. Jesus purchased our salvation and intercedes for us. What do we do then? We be faithful to love people through our actions and telling them who Jesus is and what he did for them, ALWAYS! To me, this is why simply living the gospel is not enough. It is good, but Jesus called us to live and tell. Great love is risking it all to love people in dark dirty places and telling them who God is and what He did on our behalf!

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Thanks for joining the conversation! Loved your thoughtful comments, and I hear what you are saying about speaking truth. Jesus himself when he was with the Samaritan woman at the well spoke truth while also giving her counseling/insight to her life.

      I agree, both are essential and both should match.

      Isn’t it interesting that your friends in Africa culturally should talk of Christ first where in other countries it takes weeks of relationship to get the “right” to bring Christ/religion/faith up? So wild how important it is to understand the culture of where you are living and working . . .

      Glad you took the time to share this!

  • Paloma Castro

    No, I don’t think that the Gospel should be a requirement for Christian humanitarian aid. I think that no one really knows what it is like to be a missionary unless you are there, in the trenches and in the ground. The Holy Spirit can prompt us to share the Gospel, and God can give us a chance to share the Gospel with people, but sometimes people have already made their decisions. Even though they have made their choice, we still can help them and maybe, by helping them, they will be drawn closer to the light that we as Christians reflect. Does that make sense?. Well, I have a blog of my own and it sure isn’t as interesting as this blog. I want to be a missionary one day. I’m actually in college. A secular college. How did I end up here? Only God!

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