By Mark A. Taylor
Could it be that cultural and sociological trends are supporting and energizing the church’s “external focus” that we seem to be seeing everywhere?
Our weekly e-newsletter and semiweekly “Buzz” column are filled with stories of churches reaching out to their communities. Youth groups and seniors ministries and whole congregations are organizing themselves to feed the hungry, erect Habit for Humanity homes, tutor in the public schools, build playgrounds in urban parks, and serve in dozens of other ways.
Last year’s National Missionary Convention rode this wave with its challenge to “Get Your Hands Dirty.” And we decided the theme would make a fitting year-long emphasis in CHRISTIAN STANDARD. This week’s articles tell three more remarkable stories from churches and parachurch ministries looking outside themselves with transforming love and service to people too often overlooked.
It’s important to note, however, that the church isn’t alone in this. Talk show hosts, rock stars, Hollywood celebrities, and government officials challenge us to fight poverty, adopt orphans, feed the hungry, and house the homeless. TV stations, local fire departments, and major league ballparks collect canned goods for food pantries and toys for orphans. It would seem that helping others is a thread weaving itself through our national consciousness—among people with and without faith.
Kurt Andersen, writing in Time magazine last month, asserted that times have changed in America. The economic crisis has moved us away from the excesses that characterized the last two or three decades.
Now Americans are pulling back, pursuing simplicity, and looking beyond themselves. We’re coming to understand that comfort, luxury, and multiplied new experiences are not our right. Just as our own economy seemed to collapse, we flocked to see Slumdog Millionaire, a picture of poverty’s injustice and oppression romanticized just enough to make us love it. We want to help. And we Christians, along with the rest of society, are ready to get our hands dirty.
We can do so motivated by the love of Christ, seeking to speak to the hungers and pains of the soul as well as the body.
Or we can organize good deeds only because “everybody’s doing them,” without considering or communicating the Christian love that motivates us to look beyond ourselves.
God is in anything that’s truly good, even when those who do good don’t realize they are reflecting the image of their Creator. Let’s thank him for the good that society encourages as we demonstrate his goodness in a way that society hasn’t seen.