09 May, 2008

Reaching further than welfare

Since I have started working for the Salvation Army, I have begun to realise the vast amount of people that we have contact with, but whom never integrate into our church and I wonder why this is. I started to look at church structure and how the community services and actual church often run side by side and often never meeting. I question our purpose of church, if we are not reaching into the lives of our local community. I do not disregard the hard work of the many community services staff, but I guess I am continuing the age old question on how the church can do community work better, rather than it being assumed that the community centres is enough.

God called us to align ourselves with the poor, not just provide their needs but rather live with them, love them and serve them as we would Jesus. Jesus said “I assume you that whatever you did for the humblest of my brothers, you did for me” Matthew 20:40

Welfare is a part of the service of the Salvation Army but it is not the total, complete or finite of social justice service, but rather one practical way of fulfilling a specific need. Welfare is important as so many people now live in crisis and need this ongoing support, but it isn’t enough, when the crisis is over whom do they turn to be shown a better way, an alternative to live – that should be the church, God’s church, the Salvation Army and where are we?

Often we are hiding in our buildings, serving God through the only ways we know(often singing), rather than challenging ourselves to go out seek his people so they are no longer lost. If we were out in our communities living the way that Jesus intended, as the Acts 2 church did, we would see our numbers growing daily and the most lost and broken in our society would find a life that is secure, not because there is enough money, but because it is invested in God and they would be cared for by his body, the church and experience God's healing power.

So often, the poor and marginalised come to the Salvation Army to receive assistance and so often all they get is vouchers or food and not the Jesus they need. So many of the community staff try to build the gap and offer more, but this journey requires more than one person of the body of Christ, it requires the whole body to work together, to love together and to allow themselves to be challenged by the need in their local community. It’s a long journey but one God is hoping we will choose to take up.

For many, doing community work is scary, it is seen as a profession rather than a ministry, but actually it is a calling on God’s people to do his will, to serve a lost and hurting world, not just to do charity, but to bring about change that is Godly and just for all. For so many in the world, they want someone to care about them, someone to remember their birthday and someone to teach them the things they missed out on because they didn’t get to grow up in a loving and supportive family. This doesn’t take a professional this just takes a loving and compassionate person who loves to serve God.

People need to be loved through the difficult times and have someone to celebrate with in the good, but most of all people need to be loved in the times when they make bad choices, fall back into old habits and need lifting out of the gutter – as Christians we should all play a ministry role in this, not just leave it for the professionals.

The church needs to wake, and be aware of the needs in the community and look for opportunity to serve and not serve because we have to, but serve out of love, for without love it is another charitable deed rather than a God loving action.

I know there are many in the community that already serve like this in their church and I applaud them, but does the structure of church need reforming and are we to caught up in serving the church rather than the church serving the world? Are there even avenues to serve your church in this way- if not why is this so?

Church attendance is decreasing, while emergency support numbers increase, what are we doing about this on a local level? I know this is not the only way to engage with people from the community, but they are literally coming to our door - it feels like we need to do something very differently. I am reminded of the Freedom blog below and maybe we need to free ourselves of our christian structure so that we can free those who are lost?

These are questions that I grapple with as God continues to reveal to me the many ways that I am Christianised into habits rather than living in freedom and doing God’s will as he intended. These are probably questions that many Christians ask themselves.

Bye for now

Robyn

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