Written by Bill Whitt
May 28, 2024

Pursuing Justice in Church Renewal

Is the world a better place because of Christianity?  How can our churches become communities devoted to justice? 

Is the world a better place because of Christianity? Increasingly, authors, bloggers, and influencers are saying that religion promotes injustice and violence. They believe that many non-Christians care about the poor and vulnerable more than the Church does.

  • The Bible’s call to pursue justice is woven throughout the Old and New Testaments. Deuteronomy 10:17-20 says God “defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow and loves the foreigner residing among you.” In the next breath, it says, you are to love those same people!
  • In Luke 4, Jesus proclaimed that he was the fulfillment of Isaiah 61, which describes the Messiah’s mission as proclaiming good news to the poor, restoring sight to the blind, and freeing for the oppressed. His sharpest criticisms were for those who “devour widow’s houses” and “neglect justice” (Matt. 12:40, Luke 11:42).

How can our churches become communities devoted to justice? Tim Keller’s book, Generous Justice, presents not only a theological deep dive, but also helpful practical advice. Here are some actionable insights for those who work in the field of church renewal.

Five Ways to Pursue Justice in Church 
1. Relief to Meet Needs
  • Folks with physical, economic, and material needs often seek out help from churches. Are your church’s deacons inspiring generosity among your congregants to help meet these needs?
  • Are you able to think outside the box and dream of effective ways to help people who are suffering. Depending on your congregation’s gifting, this help could include food, clothing, counseling, housing, legal aid, protection from abuse, medical care, etc.
2. Personal Development
  • Offering a person training to help them move beyond dependency is the next level of support. We long to see people be economically self-sufficient. Metaphorically speaking, this happens when we not only give people fish but teach them to fish!
  • What can your church do to ensure everyone develops the ability to provide for themselves? This could involve financial education, assistance finding job opportunities, or training in career skills.
3. Community Development
  • Justice concerns exist on a larger scale as well. Those who live in poorer neighborhoods often fall victim to outside companies and people, who take advantage of their situation.
  • What can your church do to help ensure the community has safe streets, good schools, and opportunities for growth? This may look like offering day care, creating a farm co-op, starting a college scholarship program, or creating adult job training programs.
4. Assistance to Neighborhood Leaders
  • We must be careful to allow community members to retain leadership. The community residents should be the main agents of analysis and planning.
  • Rather than swooping in and solving all the neighborhood’s problems with our solutions, we must work to ensure that the community itself retains control over what changes are implemented and at what pace. To do otherwise dishonors the people and increase their dependence rather than self-sufficiency.
5. Social Reform
  • Some problems are too large for churches and nonprofit organizations to fix. We also need to address the conditions that resulted in the people’s dependency, including broader social structures.
  • Do corrupt judges take bribes? Are legislators bought by special interest lobbyists? Are law enforcement officers treating each person fairly?

One final note: Tim Keller says it is advisable to partner with other organizations to accomplish many of these tasks. Our main role is to preach, teach, and nurture the congregation in the Gospel. The individuals we disciple will then go out into all areas of the world to bring about social reform — and we should plan all we do with this goal in mind! 

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