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Living Water


As a church, we must be careful not just to focus on the verbal proclamation of the gospel.


living water...bottled

by Kent Nelson


“I don’t want any water. People don’t give things away for free. Where did you get it?”

This was the reaction from a local man here on St. Croix when we passed out free bottles of water during a Mercy Ministry project. Due to a rise in vandalism and crime, our communities have become increasingly closed to door-to- door visitation causing the church to rethink our outreach strategies.

Giving away bottles of water accompanied by information about our church and the gospel helps us tell our community that we care, and so does Jesus. Truthfully, we were asking our own questions. “Will anyone even read the flyers? Are we creating a litter nuisance if people throw them on the ground? Will we be accepted or rejected?”

The questions were answered not long after the outreach started. A lady watching us from her parked car across the streets honked her horn and waved us over. She accepted the water and the gospel flyer. We watched her read the information intently for next ten 10 minutes. Mission accomplished. A Mercy Ministry project had opened the door for the gospel to be presented.


Living Water


I agree with James E. White when he suggests in Rethinking the Church that it takes seven points of contact before a person will consider coming to your church. Here in the Virgin Islands, we have to make these points of contact in a culturally sensitive way. This culture is in conflict with itself, a fact evidenced by soaring crime rates, increasing cases of HIV, and a growing distrust of local leadership and government. How do we make an impact as a church?

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis compares the church to sailing ships:

Think of us as a fleet sailing in formation…If the ships keep on having collisions, they will not remain sea worthy very long. On the other hand, if their steering gears are out of order, they will not be able to avoid collisions.

The social problems in the Virgin Islands, as everywhere, stem from sin. The steering mechanism is faulty; it is depraved. Therefore, the foundational response of the church must be to preach the gospel clearly with passion while living out the gospel in the community. A tent revival evangelist from Barbados recently put it this way. “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is, it is, it is, it is—say it with me one more time—it is the power of God unto salvation!” True social reformation can never take place unless the gospel takes root and bears fruit in the lives of people.

As a church, we must be careful not just to focus on the verbal proclamation of the gospel.

Take Lewis’ analogy further. If the ships are colliding (if the social structure is crumbling) then the church must do what she can to keep the ships from falling apart. This is why we engage in Mercy Ministry (a phrase popularized by Timothy Keller in Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road) here in St. Croix. We ask the question, “What can we do to strengthen the social fabric that holds together the culture in which we live?”


Living Water


Currently we are utilize four types of outreach: Christian education, Mercy Ministry, Focal Point Outreach, and Community Partnerships. The Free Will Baptist Christian School educates 260 students a day from the Christian worldview. Mercy Ministry engages our needy community with random acts of kindness. Our church visitation, called Focal Point, strives to make our church families the focal point of spiritual life in their neighbourhoods by strategically focusing on the neighbours of our church families. We have partnered financially and physically with two local organizations, Lighthouse Christian Mission that feeds the homeless, and AYSO Soccer that teaches discipline through youth soccer programs.

Will free bottles of water make a difference? One man rejected cool, refreshing water. Another lady heard and accepted living water. We can make a difference through the power of the gospel as we engage our communities through service and love. Please pray for the church in St. Croix as we continue to advance the kingdom in the Caribbean.

About the Writer: Kent and Jeanna Nelson work as home missionaries for the ministries in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. Learn more about the work in St. Croix at


Living Water

©2009 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists