A Message from Pastor Hale
Everybody does not win. In this fallen world, people face unfair tragedy and heartache. Some live only for days, others live for a century – only to do incredible evil. Some are born into heart-wrenching situations or bodies that cannot be fixed by human hands. There is no rhyme or reason to how money and success and fame are distributed, if we look with our eyes.
“Everybody Wins” is the name of a movement or campaign started by Christian churches in Omaha. It has good intentions, no doubt. It aims to do outward things that few people can disagree with: like improving run-down and unsafe neighborhoods and making Omaha a more beautiful city. No one desires unsafe and trashed-out areas. Everybody wins, if we work together – that sounds great! But when Christian churches do things outwardly, they also confess something about Christ. Or more precisely, they can also fail to confess and become like a narcissistic teenager primping in front of the mirror.
Individually, we can do many things that are not exclusively Christian in themselves. We seek to help the poor and our neighbors, yes. (Or even help a large family move their heavy and numerous possessions into a house close to Zion.) We don't need a church or pastor to tell us to help someone in need. We have reason and our eyes for that. But what we do must not become a replacement for the Gospel of Jesus. Ours best works are sinful and in need of forgiveness. That's why our activity as sinners in the Church of Christ is nothing compared to Christ for us in the forgiveness of sins.
Our victory, our winning, is in Christ crucified. His blood won us freedom from guilt, to live before God in peace. But this world is not in peace. Poverty is like cancer, there is no cure. Our focus is not on this world or improving outward things. No, this world is passing away. We do works out of love for Christ and His brothers, not to make Omaha into the blissful Garden of Eden.
When churches try to change the world, they risk losing the Gospel. Jesus told us to be in the world, not of the world. We live with Christ on high, in the heavenly places. Our righteousness is not in the things we do – it is with Christ, the righteous one. Omaha is a great city, but even west Omaha is a slum compared to heaven!
Right off the bat “Everybody wins” talks about “the 2000-year passion to change the world with an unstoppable love.” The love of the Gospel is not our love, but Christ's, shown in his death. Christ's love takes away sins and gives peace with God the Father, because we have offended Him and broken His law. Faith does not reduce poverty, or improve mental health or neighborhoods. If you expect a better life right now, you will be disappointed or else Christ is a liar: “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (14:22).
“Everybody Wins” is a social justice campaign. There is nothing intrinsically Christian about it. There seem to be no core beliefs to which it subscribes. The website has a pastor talking about God very generically, so that it could apply to almost any “god” out there. Instead of religious doctrine, it aims for practical improvement. Poverty is the first goal: churches “hope that one day Omaha will have no inner city, that no child will be raised on the streets or in a hurting home, and that no family will be touched by poverty, violence, or injustice. When poverty is defeated, everybody wins.”
If poverty can be defeated, Jesus was mistaken: “For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me” (Mark 14:7). The problem is not money or goods – it is sinful hearts that abuse and misuse God's good gifts. Poverty can be a spiritual problem or caused by an addiction or simply because of sin: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10).
"By renovating homes, moving into tough neighborhoods, tutoring kids, holding clean-up days and neighborhood parties, North Omaha is changing block by block. When we engage in neighborhood transformation, education goes up, relationships are built, crime goes down and Everybody Wins!"
What religions could do these? All, even the atheist could agree. Instead of “Everybody Wins,” perhaps it should be called “Everybody Agrees, so Nobody Disagrees.” The focus is not on God's Word or Christ's holy works (which are divisive), but our own. This is why differing churches can join together in these outward things: they have nothing to do with Christ or His Gospel.
We should do good works for the poor, but to eliminate poverty is not our goal. That is about as realistic as one of us bringing peace to the Middle East. But we give the (spiritually) poor heaven in the Word of Christ's blood, not gold and silver. Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6). Christ is always the right answer to spiritual poverty.
“Everybody Wins” is a social justice campaign which tries to make the world a perfect utopia. But who needs heaven and forgiveness if we can make this city a paradise on earth? We should help those in need, but our goal is a much better world than a slightly improved, sinful one. We desire a “new heaven and a new earth,” one that completely revolves around Christ the Lamb of God, not ourselves.
The Church's goal first and foremost is to forgive sins. Only the Word of forgiveness creates faith by the Holy Spirit. It must be the Spirit's work to make the Church, if it is to endure to eternal life. We give the poor something much better than money: hope and eternal life.
Jesus did not die to make Omaha a better city. The idea of "everybody wins," even if those churches believe in an actual heaven, sounds like everybody is saved – universalism – which is certainly unscriptural. In truth, a Jew or Muslim or atheist could do the same thing as this group. It requires no doctrines or Gospel or creeds. But that’s why people get excited about it. We want results we can see, not believe in a Christ we cannot see.
Individual Christians are free to do works, but applying a bumper sticker is much easier than actually doing it. Jesus said something about advertising our good works. “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” He did not say put it on a bumper sticker! The biblical focus is on specific people’s needs that you see, not general social categories (like poverty) or broad movements.
This is a horrible statement: "A church’s power lies in its people." For us, our power is not in sinful flesh, but God's forgiving Word which gives us the renewing Holy Spirit. Christ's flesh that was crucified for us is our power. Our power is God Himself, because we have His Word. The Spirit moves us to works which please the Father – not simply to make Omaha prettier.
The Gospel does not give the results we want – because we cannot see the Spirit. Many are offended that they are so bad that they need God's Son to die for them. But Christ's love shown in His body is what makes the church go. Our love as people is always secondary, sinful, and in need for forgiveness. “For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17). Christ's death won life for everybody.