Why churches, not business or government, are best suited to help the needy
In today’s culture it’s easy to think that the only way to solve the overwhelming challenges we face is either through innovative business or big government. Yet the reality is that the church, despite its faults, is still God’s chosen instrument of blessing and has been for 2,000 years.
When senior pastor Rick Warren began rethinking Saddleback Church’s missions strategy, which led to the PEACE Plan, he realized the body of Christ has several advantages over the efforts of business and government to help those in need. He saw that:
1. The church provides the largest participation.More than 2 billion people claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. That’s one-third of the world’s population! In the U.S., about 100 million people went to church last weekend. That’s more than all who will attend sporting events this year in the U.S.
2. The church provides the widest distribution. The church is everywhere. You could visit villages all around the world that don’t have a school, clinic, hospital, fire department, post office or business. But they have a church. We are more widely spread—or distributed—than any business franchise in the world.
Consider this: The Red Cross noted that 90 percent of the meals it served to victims of Hurricane Katrina were cooked by Southern Baptist churches. Many churches were able to act faster than government agencies or the Red Cross.
3. The church provides the fastest expansion.Did you know that 60,000 new people a day come to believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior? That means thousands of new churches will be started throughout the world today—and tomorrow and the next day.
Why is fast expansion important? One reason is, if a problem is growing rapidly, then a solution is needed that will grow even faster. For instance, HIV/AIDS is growing incredibly fast worldwide. Yet the church is outgrowing the disease, so more and more believers can help minister to the victims.
4. The church provides the highest motivation. Why do any of us do what we do in ministry? Not to make money or a name for ourselves. We do it out of love. Jesus stated it as the Great Commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart ... and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27, NKJV). We wouldn’t do the hard work required to tackle these global giants if it were for money or fame. It just wouldn’t be worth it. We’d quit before we finished.
5. The church provides the strongest authorization. God authorized us to take on global giants such as spiritual emptiness, egocentric leadership, poverty, disease and illiteracy. So the outcome is guaranteed to be successful.
When you know God authorized you to do something, you don’t worry about failure because God doesn’t sponsor flops. If God says we’re going to do it, then it’s going to happen. In fact, God will give us His power to complete the task. This is God’s way: ordinary people empowered by His Spirit.
6. The church provides the simplest administration.The way the church is organized, it networks faster and with less bureaucracy than most governmental agencies or even well-meaning charities. The old wineskin of “command and control” won’t work well in the 21st century. The organization of the future is the “network.” And there’s no better worldwide network than the church, where every member is a minister empowered by God.
Consider it this way: Tens of millions of Christians in millions of small groups within churches around the world can take on the global giants with no other authority than Jesus Christ’s. We have God’s permission and God’s command to do it. There is no need to seek permission from anyone else.
It is a great privilege to be called, as we are, to lead our local churches. Like mine, your church is a vital part of the greatest force on earth—the church; God’s chosen instrument of blessing for every nation and people. God has given us an awesome responsibility, but He wouldn’t have placed us where we are if He didn’t believe we could handle the task.
Tom Holladay is associate senior pastor at Saddleback Church, where he has served for almost 21 years, and assists senior pastor Rick Warren in teaching Purpose Driven church conferences to Christian leaders worldwide. He is the author of The Relationship Principles of Jesus (Zondervan) and has a daily podcast, “Drivetime Devotions,” at drivetimedevotions.com.
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Silence can be a powerful tool for communicating a message of truth
Watching the recent Super Bowl game reminded me of a powerful kingdom lesson we learned a few years ago.
It was October 2009, and I was sitting in a recording studio at Focus on the Family. A colleague had suggested a wild idea for Focus to film a pro-life TV commercial with Pam and Tim Tebow. At the time, Tim was the University of Florida’s star quarterback and his mother, Pam, had publicly shared her decision to refuse a doctor’s suggestion to abort baby Tim years earlier.
I loved it. “That should be a Super Bowl ad,” I said.
But the cost of a 30-second Super Bowl ad was steep. As much as I wanted to do it, I wasn’t sure we could pull it off.
A remarkable series of events began to unfold. Several generous friends of Focus stepped forward and pledged to cover the cost. We were introduced to Bob (Tim’s father) and Pam Tebow, and they agreed to work with us. Under a veil of secrecy, a single day of filming was scheduled for early January.
On Christmas Eve, a newspaper columnist broke our story. His report missed several key details, but we declined comment. The writer speculated the advertisement would be an anti-abortion spot and then proceeded to lampoon us.
Within days, several abortion rights groups around the country objected to news of the rumored advertisement. Throughout January reporters called for details, wanting to know who would be in the ad, what they would say, etc. We accepted invitations to talk about it, but declined to offer any specifics—only confirming the ad would celebrate the beauty of family and the wonder of life.
It quickly became one of the most talked about commercials in Super Bowl history, garnering us an estimated $45 million in earned media coverage.
Ironically, the attention happened as a result of us choosing not to argue with our critics or challenge faulty assertions or insinuations—namely that we were bigoted, intolerant and determined to foist our opinions on others.
I’d like to claim credit for such genius. Our silence was intentional, but we didn’t do it because we thought it would make for good press—rather because I don’t think retaliating or picking a fight is the right approach. So instead of fighting back, we trusted that the Lord had His hand on the project. Even as the pressure mounted on CBS to cancel our ad contract, we stood our ground and didn’t publicly defend ourselves or even our right to free speech.
For one of my favorite commercial-related interviews, I was invited to debate Jehmu Green, at the time the president of the Women’s Media Center, who was brought on to represent those who disagreed with CBS allowing our spot to run. The conversation eventually turned to Pam Tebow’s courage not to abort Tim. She and I agreed that Mrs. Tebow was a remarkable woman. At that point, I had an opportunity to foreshadow the coming ad, saying, “Jehmu, I’m glad your mother chose life for you.” She smiled at that comment.
Shortly after the game, we received a note from a woman named “Susan.” She had seen the ad, was pregnant and considering an abortion. The ad had changed her mind. Almost a year after her daughter, Avita, was born, I had the privilege of hosting them in my office. Had we chosen to argue with our critics before the big game, just to make a point or show our strength, I believe the CBS censors would have bounced us from the lineup.
When it comes to engaging the culture, it’s never the right time to pick a fight. Instead, pick the right time to share the right word.
Jim Daly is the president and host of Focus on the Family. His latest book, ReFOCUS: Living a Life That Reflects God’s Heart, released last fall. He and his wife have two boys.