A brief follow-up to yesterday’s post regarding Ms. Jefferts Schori and the off-track direction of the Episcopal Church; I found this quote, via 9Marks that was worthy of repeating:

It is necessary, however, to emphasize that the church should not claim power and jurisdiction in every area of life, including social issues. There are greater calls on our compassion than even the most horrible physical sufferings, and no other body is charged with looking after meeting those greater needs and showing that kind of compassion than the local church.[44] It would be just like Satan and the world to desire the church to abstain from her role of proclaiming the exclusivity of Christ to become another welfare organization, when God did not give the church that function in Scripture. Ken Jones said it well at a CHBC Henry Forum. He said,

“If the church never offers a single hot meal but preaches the gospel, then she is true to her calling. But if all she does is offer hot meals and dances in the neighborhood and gives away clothes but never preaches the gospel – she’s not a church…The church is not called to economically empower anybody, but it is called to deliver the message of reconciliation. But my concern is that…we are defining ourselves…by the programs that we offer and not the message we preach.”

6 responses »

  1. Hefe says:

    alright, I’m going to throw this out there. I agree with Dever (if that is who wrote this piece), but not entirely with Ken Jones. I think his first sentence, “If the church never offers a single hot meal but preaches the gospel, then she is true to her calling…”, lacks nuance. It is entirely possible for that statement to be true on an individual church basis, but possibly not universally true.

    I think Dever was closer to correct when he said that the exclusivity of Christ SUPERCEDES those other things, and is the greater call of compassion.

  2. Byron says:

    But I think that’s what he’s talking about: an individual local church.

  3. Laura Cain says:

    It’s like asking the question, “which is more important, faith or works?” The answer is yes!

  4. Byron says:

    Well, sort of. Evangelism is the more primary goal, with “compassion ministries” a means to that end. Faith is what saves, as you well know, with works accompanying faith to prove its reality.

  5. Ted says:

    Byron, what do you think of the notion that compassion ministries are not really good (maybe even evil) acts since they are only a means to the end of adding more believers to the church body? Is the profit of saving souls worth what many view as a deceptive “bait and switch” tactic by churches? Would a truly compassionate body of people not be willing to provide charity and relief without expecting the reciprocation of joining the church body? Isn’t there some other way to approach the ministry?

  6. Byron says:

    Ted,

    Sorry it’s taken awhile. I’ll have to disagree, only because I don’t think that it works in practice the way you’ve described it. I’ve been a part of many churches, never one of which had the expectation of people joining the church in order to receive help. I’ve never heard of a church that did that, either.

    I think that the point Dever, et al, make, is that we ought not divorce “compassion” ministries from the primary work of the church, the making of disciples. No, we don’t make getting a hot meal contingent on joining the church; again, I’ve never heard of that ever happening (neither have I ever heard of anyone—certainly not “many”, though I’m open to hearing evidence of this—who views compassion ministries as some kind of “bait-and-switch” deal). But as churches, we recognize that we are not primarily in the business of alleviating poverty or what-have-you; those have a level of importance, but are corollary to our central purpose. We are here to make disciples, and if/as we help the poor, we must keep that priority first and foremost. Sadly, most churches do not, in my experience, and thus the problem is almost exactly the opposite of what you describe: far from bait-and-switching people, we hand out resources with little concern for the eternal souls of people.

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