I wrote this earlier this week over at 2nds, my church’s blog.
In my 14 years or so of church ministry, my least favorite responsibility has been overseeing finances and budgets. Though I like working with numbers and reconciling accounts, it’s complicated leading a team that must make recommendations regarding cuts, since there is so much need and not enough money.
For a while I served as an elder, and we discussed at length and on many occasions the difference (if any) between a couple budget line items:
- Outreach, both domestic and international
- Servant Evangelism
Outreach involved funding missionaries in our own backyard and throughout the world. Servant Evangelism was money we devoted to churchwide projects, like giving away Christmas trees, hosting Easter egg hunts, and supplies needed to mow someone’s yard or fix plumbing.
Aren’t serving and missions the same thing? I’m not sure we ever decided the argument. Probably, they simply go hand-in-hand. For we can’t share Christ with people and ignore their basic needs.
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? —James 2:15-16 ESV
But we also can’t simply meet their needs and never share with them the truth of the gospel. Jesus spoke to his followers about feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and those in prison, but he also encouraged us to share the good news of the kingdom of God. That forgiveness of sins is available to those who would receive Jesus.
How do we baptize and make disciples of all nations? It is not only by building schools or digging wells in Africa or Asia. In the process of meeting physical needs, we also “teach them to observe all that [Jesus] commanded” (see Matthew 28:20).
There is so much more to this than I can write. So I highly recommend a book I read recently by David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. This book opened up my eyes more fully to the needs in the world, and how we as the Church can go about fulfilling the mission Christ gave.
Check out the book. And pray. Ask God to show you where there is physical and spiritual need. He invites us to join him in recovering the lost. Let us not turn down his invitation.