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Roesel advocates alternative to ‘old-fashioned social gospel’


ATLANTA (BP)–Many Christians have become “hallelujah junkies who go from meeting to meeting learning how to minister to hurting people but never use what they’ve learned,” Charles Roesel told nearly 1,000 participants in a national ministry conference April 3.

“God does not need the man or woman on a spiritual mountaintop who is not willing to go into the valley,” said Roesel, pastor of First Baptist Church, Leesburg, Fla. “As long as we minister to people, we will never lack for an audience because there is a valley filled with hurting people.”

Speaking during the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board “Touch a Life Ministry Conference” opening session, Roesel, whose church has more than 55 different ministries, said, “Sometimes our parking lot looks like the ‘Grapes of Wrath,’ but they are people who need the touch of Christ.”

However, Roesel said, God cannot use the person who has not been on the mountaintop. “We do not need the old-fashioned social gospel which was all social and no gospel. What we need is ministry evangelism that flows from the heart of God.

“The danger is that ministry in and of itself is so satisfying that many times we meet a person’s physical need but don’t reach them for Jesus Christ,” Roesel said. “The ultimate goal of every ministry in our church is to reach people for Christ, or we have failed to reach them at their greatest point of need.”

Roesel said his church’s experience with ministry has taught him “when you are in the Spirit, he will have you do some new things as well as some old things unusually well.”


“In a town of 17,000, we enrolled 2,400 in a two-week Vacation Bible School. We won 50 children to the Lord.

“God in his Spirit will also lead us to make his resources count. I don’t believe he will say, ‘Well done’ to a church with a $27 million sanctuary when millions of people haven’t even heard the gospel,” Roesel said. “Our churches can’t give to missions or ministry if they are building monuments to men. We must go to seven-day-a-week churches rather than using our facilities four hours a week.”

Roesel also told conference attendees that many churches are dying from “staff infection — every time there’s a job to do, we hire a new staff member to do it. We must set the laity free. Clergy must step back while our laymen step up.” First Baptist, Leesburg, has 1,400 members who volunteer in the church’s various ministries, Roesel said.