HEAR TO HELP
How is our church known in our community? Whenever churches have taken the time to ask their community, they generally get feedback sounding like – irrelevant, out-dated, money-focussed, judgmental. Increasingly though, it seems they also get blank looks. That is, many people in their community aren’t even aware of the church in their community. Sometimes, we church-goers become so inward-focussed that we assume everyone (including those in our community) know who we are, what we do, how we fail, and at least where we are. But the sad reality is, they don’t. Bill Hybels recently had a reason to go down to the back of his Willow Creek Church campus (in Chicago). A neighbour to the church called him over and pointed at the church and asked, “Hey, what is this?” As I recall the story, Bill asked him if he was new to the area. “No, I’ve lived here for years.” Even 20,000 member churches (such as Willow Creek) can have difficulties connecting with their communities!
For our church to connect well with our community we have to let them know that we are hear to help. If we can do this then they will at least know that we are also here to help.
THE CHURCH THAT JESUS DESIGNED
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
The Church continues the earthly ministry of Christ. As we read the Gospels we note that Jesus taught people, healed people, fed people, and advocated for the poor and for foreigners. Hence, from the establishment of the Church, Christians developed social welfare delivery for the poor, education for the under-privileged, and health care for the sick, injured or dying. All the while, Christ commissioned His Church to proclaim God’s offer of salvation and forgiveness of sins for all those who would turn away from sins in repentance toward God. Thus, Christ’s design for His Church was for us to truly show love toward our neighbours by tending to both their temporal needs and their greatest and eternal need.
And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as you love yourself
Loving our neighbours surely involves caring about their welfare and doing what we can to help them. This begins with hearing them. Recently I heard a veteran Christian minister answer the question, “If you could spend time with a non-Christian for the final moments of their life, what would you say to them just before they died?” His answer surprised the questioner. “I would“, he began, “listen to them for most of that time, then after showing them that I cared enough to listen to their heart, I would ask if I could help them get to heaven, and if they gave me their permission, I would share the Gospel with them.” Sometimes we have to hear to help.
HEAR, IF WE WANT PEOPLE TO LISTEN
Through the centuries, the Church has volunteered medical care, education, shelter, meals, leadership during times of adversity, relationship counselling, job training, and parenting coaching. God occasionally raises up people whom He gifts with talents and abilities to be able to meet these kinds of needs as they arise. Some Christians have made the mistake of thinking that the Church only exists to meet these temporal needs. Christ’s heart must break each time this mistake is made. Some Christians have made the mistake of thinking that the Church only exists to evangelise. Christ’s heart must break each time this mistake is made. Both mistakes admit a failure to truly hear Christ. If we want people to listen to us we need to hear Christ.
HEAR, HOW WE CAN HELP
Someone may look at the list above of how the Church has helped people down through the ages and claim that other groups can now equally or better meet these needs in society today. Thus, they might reason, the Church is now irrelevant. While we have already mentioned two grievous mistakes that Christians can make about the role of the Church, this mistake committed by an onlooker of the Church would be a heinous mistake. The world needs the Church now – more than ever!
Christ’s heart is for all people. His Church walks in step with Him. We share His heart with Him. Therefore, our heart is for all people.
As Christ walked the shores of Galilee, the roads of Judea, and the streets of Jerusalem, He saw need. Many times He met these needs. People were fed. People were taught. People were healed. But most especially, people were forgiven and given a new start. Matthew, a despised tax collector for Herod Antipas on behalf of Rome, was transformed into a beloved apostle who eventually took the Gospel of God’s love and grace to Ethiopia. Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9) was a formerly mentally deranged woman whom Jesus cast, not one, but seven, demons out of. Space prevents us listing all such transformations narrated in the Gospel accounts. Whenever needy people encountered Jesus, transformation resulted. The same is true today and there is no other agency that can replicate or replace this vital ministry of the Church. Only Christ’s Church can meet the temporal needs of people while giving them a three-dimensional transformation.
HEAR, A 3 DIMENSIONAL TRANSFORMATION
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Jesus meets both our immediate needs and our deepest most urgent and most important need. While food, clothing, shelter, care, education, acceptance are important needs, they are not as important as being rescued from Satan’s bondage and set free from his spell. Miraculously, Jesus transforms a person’s past, present and future.
¶ So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Christ has commissioned and entrusted His Church to minister this miraculous grace to those who need it. This transforming grace is proclaimed by preaching and witness. This grace forgives a person for their sin-stained past and empowers them to repent.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Second Corinthians 5:17
This grace transforms a person’s present by giving them hope for today and a new reason to endure this life’s temporal adversities.
So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him.
Second Corinthians 5:9
And this same grace helps people secure an eternally blessed future.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
Second Corinthians 5:10
The need around us today is great: (i) marriage and family breakdown, (ii) hyper-loneliness, (iii) material idolatry, (iv) identity confusion, (v) suicidal despair. Only Christ’s grace mediated through His Church can possibly meet these needs. Sunday by Sunday we have people looking for the answer to their needs walking into our church services. Each day of the week, the transformed people of our church community bear witness to the transforming grace of Christ to those in need. These are the needy who have sought help from various sources but come away empty and still in bondage. This is not surprising because professional therapists, Government welfare workers, or hospital staff, rarely know how to meet the deepest, greatest, most important need within every human soul. This is why we, the church, are hear to help. Hopefully, as we continue to do this, more within and from around our community will hear that they too can have their needs met. Hear, hear.