Remember the old television show The Invisible Man? When someone wanted to make the Invisible Man visible, they would pour paint on him. Then you could see his shape and track his movements.
That’s a picture of Jesus and the local church: We’re the paint that makes the invisible Christ visible to our community. In our fellowship, our multicultural diversity, our selfless acts of love, our forgiveness and boldness, we reveal the contours of the eternal, heavenly Christ that dwells within us. When local churches equip their people to embody the gospel in the streets, they make the movements of an otherwise invisible Christ visible to the community.
This is one of the reasons that we engage in the messy work of local outreach. At the most fundamental level, we reach out to the hurting and vulnerable in our community because God loves them. But we also know that our acts of service make the good news of the gospel tangible and believable to those who feel far from God.
I heard a story that illustrates this perfectly just last week. One of our members had been getting to know a group of single mothers through one of our local ministries. Here is what she said about a woman she had recently met, named Lorraine:
Lorraine is new to Durham. She met a man at Social Services who was helping another pregnant couple. He told her about the Summit and invited her. Later on, she entered the Community Choices program, where one of the staff members told her about God.
Then another mom from the program gave her my info, about my small group. So eight days into her program, she calls me, telling me how amazed she is that God keeps “coming up” throughout her day. We chat about life and about God. She says that she has this huge Bible and wants to read it at night, but isn’t sure where to start. I told her to read Psalm 139, because of its message that God sees her, knows her and loves her. She turned to it while we were still on the phone, and I heard her yell because those verses were underlined—the only markings in the whole Bible.
I invited her to the Summit. And there was more yelling there, because it turns out the man she met at Social Services attends my campus, too. Lorraine came to church, then came to our small group—and loved it. She told me she was convinced that God is real and moving in her life. But she wasn’t sure about Jesus.