I’ve been exposed to much literature lately about the church and missions and poverty and hunger and disease prevention and sex trafficking. All kinds of things. It seems like it’s a hot topic lately as I’ve heard about it at church, read about it on blogs, see it in Christian magazines and new books. So it’s been something that I’ve been thinking about lately.
What should the church be doing about so many of these issues? Certainly, our track record hasn’t been super strong on assisting in these issues. (Right? Or is that just an assumption I’ve made?) Books from authors like Jen Hatmaker make me think that I’m not doing enough. Or, at least, the things that I’m doing aren’t the right things.
Some conclusions that I’ve come to:
Maybe the church’s track record is better than we think. There are many ministries out there, formed by Christians, to help with homelessness and illiteracy. Many a hospital has been built out of a Christian concern for people. Many a medical missionary has gone to foreign countries to practice.
The church was established for equipping Christians, not really fixing all the world’s problems. The world’s problems aren’t all going to get fixed. It’s like the church is a school for doctor’s, not a hospital. It’s the place where people are trained up and equipped to know Jesus better, love God more and to know the Bible more.
Helping others is a commandment. And there are productive ways to help people and unproductive ways. Sometimes, people really need money. But other times, they think they need money, but they need Jesus to help them break the patterns of bad decisions that they’ve made or need people to give guidance.
You can’t (and shouldn’t) ignore the needs you know of – if you can meet those needs. If the person next to you says she is hungry, you feed her. But if the person next to you say she is hungry, but only wants money (not food), then you can’t meet that need. Being presented with someone that has a legitimate need that you can meet, seems to me to be a “holy hint” that it’s something you’re supposed to do. I might be wrong, but I’d rather error on the side of caution.
One of the books that helped me come to these conclusions was Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert’s book named “What Is the Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission”. I really recommend it. It’s not a super easy read and I’m not in 100% agreement with all of it, but I think it provides a nice contrast to the line of thought that says “If your church isn’t more about poverty/sex trafficking/missions/drugs/homelessness/medical needs than it is about preaching/teaching/counseling/worshipping, then you’re doing something wrong.”