The November 2021 issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY explores “The Public Health Crisis No One is Talking About” created by decreased church attendance. The article notes research indicating that church attendance significantly reduces the risk of suicide, depression, divorce, illegal drug use and “deaths of despair.” The article states, “Religious communities provide a strong safety net that other institutions can’t easily replace.”
I thought of that safety net while watching the first episode of MAID on Netflix. MAID is the story of a young mom escaping an abusive relationship. In her flight she runs into one crisis after another. Her attempt to find help from social agencies, with family and in the work force just makes matters worse. My repeated thought was, “YOU NEED TO FIND A CHURCH!”
The Center for Church Renewal underscores the well-known statement, “The Local Church is the Hope of the World.” At Caesarea Philippi Jesus declared that the church alone has the power to overcome the gates of hell. Stated simply, there is nothing like the church when the church is working right.
Every congregation, no matter their size, should take seriously the importance of being a place of refuge for those who are troubled and for those who are in trouble.
Here are Several Commitments That Assist Churches In Becoming The Hope Of The World
Commitment 1: Choose Not To Judge
The 16th century English Reformer, John Bradford, seeing a group of prisoners said, “There but by the grace of God, go I.” An attitude of thankful humility that refuses to judge another person’s life or circumstances is entry level Christian hospitality. To suspend judgement is not, of course, the same as suspending discernment. Aid agencies remind us that not all helping is helpful.
Commitment 2: Nurture Generosity
One reason the Good Samaritan cared for a wounded stranger while a priest and Levite did not is that he had time and resources to share. Congregations must be encouraged to create margins in their life so they can be generous with those God puts in their path.
Commitment 3: Be Available
It can be hard to get ahold of people at churches. Most buildings remain dark and locked during the week with no contact information posted. Every church, minimally, should post a sign on their entry door stating, “If you are in need of assistance please call ___________.”
Commitment 4: Get People Connected
The most important thing to offer people in trouble is not benevolence but relationship. Better to invite them into your home for a meal and a bed than provide them a McDonald’s gift card and an overnight at a hotel. Relationships are the secret sauce of Christ-like care.
Commitment 5: Stand In The Gap
Often missing for those who are struggling is the ability to advocate for themselves. They walk into community agencies and feel invisible. Coming alongside those who are hurting to advocate and network often changes the circumstances they experience on the ground.
Commitment 6: Find Community To-Holds
Besides responding graciously to all comers, churches should go into the community actively seeking opportunities to serve. This could include volunteering at existing agencies or creating fresh expressions of service to the community (for example, tutoring at risk children).
Commitment 7: Preach The Gospel
Preaching the Gospel is the most important thing we do on the road to being the hope of the world. The Gospel teaches grace and humility to those providing assistance and hope and dignity to those receiving it. Knowing we are beloved begins every journey of restoration.