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FIRST-PERSON: Good deeds vs. Gospel deeds

Terry W. Dorsett is executive director of the Baptist Convention of New England.

NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. (BP) — “We serve our community because we love our community,” the flyer from the new church in town proclaimed. And in a matter of months they definitely gained a reputation for serving the community.

They painted a school, collected shoes for the homeless, picked up trash after community events and cut up trees that blew over in a storm. It was impressive.

Three years later, their church disbanded. That was not so impressive.

As the person who recruited the church planter and helped find the initial funding to get the work started, I’ve long pondered how a church that did so many good deeds could fail. There came a moment when I realized they had never turned their good deeds into Gospel deeds.

What I mean by Gospel deeds is moments when we actually share the life-changing message of Jesus Christ with those we are serving. In retrospect, it’s obvious in the situation described here that the church plant’s core group spent so much time doing good deeds that no one actually talked to the people they were serving about the Savior who had called them to serve.

In a colossal miscalculation, the good deeds became an end unto themselves: Keeping busy with good deeds does not automatically equal souls saved or lives changed.

Having been in New England a long time and taken part in many such service efforts myself, I know it is not always possible to verbally share a Gospel presentation in every situation with every person. Sometimes there are rules in place that prevent it. Sometimes the person being served isn’t interested in talking about spiritual things. Sometimes there are just too many distractions from the event itself that no one could hear or understand even if the Gospel were shared.

Surely in three years of good deeds for the community, that church plant likely could have found a way to engage in some Gospel deeds. Surely the Lord provided the opportunities; they simply missed them.

I think this happens more than we’d like to admit. Not just in churches, but in our personal lives as well. Christians should do good deeds. But we must always be intentional about finding ways to transform those good deeds into Gospel deeds.

Though we can say we love others through our actions, if we fail to verbalize the Gospel, which can save their souls from hell, have we really loved them? Let us go forth and do good deeds, but let us also be intentional about turning those good deeds into Gospel deeds.