Good Deeds, Goodwill, Good News – Get It?

Post a Comment » Written on June 22nd, 2007     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

PORTLAND, OR (June 22, 2007) – “Doing good deeds for people leads to goodwill and opens the door to hearing the good news,” delegates to the 122nd Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church were told during tonight’s worship service.

Throughout the service, pastors and church members shared how combining compassion and evangelism had impacted communities in ways that they had not foreseen.

Pastor Russ Blake and Joseph Ottley shared about the recovery ministry of Crossroads Community Covenant Church in Yelm, Washington. Started by Ottley, a recovering addict, the ministry operates two residences housing 17 people as they transition to a sober life. A third residence for women is scheduled to open in August.

PastorsRocky Cook, pastor of First Mission Covenant Church in Fresno, California, told about offering to teach character to the five toughest students at a local elementary school. As the church has reached out to the school, children have given their lives to God. The principal, initially skeptical of Cook, has invited him to give assemblies in the coming year.

The main speakers for the evening were Ray Johnston, senior and founding pastor of Bayside Covenant Church in Roseville, California, and Sherwood Carthen, senior pastor of Bayside of South Sacramento (BOSS). The accompanying photo shows Carthen (left) and Johnston.

The two men shared how God strategically brought them together through a series of circumstances that neither of them could have imagined or orchestrated.

“I’m a black Pentecostal preacher in the Covenant church,” Carthen said. “I have to tell you the truth, I didn’t see that in my day planner, but God has made that happen.”

Carthen said the men earnestly began working together when a foundation he headed needed help purchasing bicycles that would be given away during a special event to children in the impoverished South Sacramento community. Bayside Covenant invited Carthen to speak and offered those attending the three worship services an opportunity to purchase bicycles in support of the program.

On the day of the foundation event, 229 children showed up. “And, we had bought exactly 229 bicycles!” said Johnston, tag-teaming the story.

The relationship led to more events and Carthen, who had not belonged to the denomination, planted the Sacramento congregation. The church is located in one of the most ethnically diverse communities in the country and reflects the diversity of the community – BOSS is 40 percent African American, 30 percent Anglo, and 30 percent Hispanic and Asian, Johnston said.

Carthen suggested that God is telling the church-at-large, “I put the poor in front of you to see if you will show them the love of God,” adding, “When is the church going to stop saying those people can do better? Maybe there’s no bootstrap to pull themselves up with.”

Johnston said his relationship with Carthen helped lead to his second ‘conversion.’ The first conversion was giving his life to Christ, with the pastor noting that his passion for sharing the gospel stems from growing up outside the church.

His second conversion – which has been occurring over the past two years – has been to compassion, Johnston said.

Johnston spoke from Acts 2:45-47: “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”

“This passage has been bothering me for about two years, so I thought I would let it bother you,” observing that the verse, along with Carthen’s influence, had “wrecked my life.”

What the passage shows, Johnston says, are words that have become almost a mantra for him: “Good deeds (giving to all in need) lead to goodwill (having the goodwill of the people), which leads to openness to good news (the Lord added to their number . . .)”

In the past, Johnston said, he had focused on giving away the good news without the good deeds and therefore had not gained the goodwill of many in the area.

As a result of focusing on the three Acts verses, the church conducted its most recent capital campaign differently. The church already had conducted two capital campaigns raising several million dollars, but “we kept the money ourselves.”

The church committed to giving away much of what it raised in the latest campaign. More than $19 million was raised – far more than the other two campaigns combined.

“This has been personally very threatening,” Johnston said, explaining he has learned to give up control to God. He confessed to being depressed while driving to worship on a Sunday morning because 300 people in his congregation committed to helping Bayside plant a new church. “I’m driving home and God took me out to the woodshed,” Johnston said.

Carthen finished after quoting from Proverbs 28: “Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but one who turns a blind eye will get many a curse.” He asked, “Are churches not functioning because we have turned our backs on people who are hurting?”

At the end of the service, delegates committed to turn toward the poor. “Bringing My World to Christ” cards were brought forward and prayed over.

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