“And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42)
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
Twenty-three families came to our building on a recent Sunday night. Were they there for worship, to learn, to sit in a Bible Study, or to pray? No. Hunger and empty cupboards at home brought them to our food pantry. They were greeted with a smile and given a chance to share any needs going on in their life. Someone offered them a Bible and to pray for them (or not at their choice). They were also given this great Gospel tract called “The Story” (www.viewthestory.com) along with some church information. And then a personal shopper guided them through our pantry and gave a helping hand in selecting their food items. I love this ministry and the passion of those who volunteer – a passion for helping others and a passion for Jesus and his message of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. God is using this ministry to impact people’s lives – one family or individual at a time.
The Scripture is replete with exhortation to consider the poor, widows, hurting, children, ill and bereaved. In the verse above, Paul tells us that as believers we were, “created in Christ Jesus for good works.”
A part of what we’re doing at Grace Fellowship to advance the Gospel is to keep our eyes open for the needs of others, meet them in practical ways, and share the Good News of Jesus while doing so. At this point, we have a small food pantry. In the first four months of its operation, we’ve helped something like 120+ families. Can we do everything? No, of course not; but we can do something.
A couple of points regarding sharing the Gospel through meeting practical needs:
a) We must always remember we are a Church with a food pantry; not a food pantry with a church. It’s easy to allow “helping” ministries to take over a church’s focus. We should help people – but we are first and foremost a body of Christ.
b) The Gospel – while helping others, we must also be diligent about sharing the good news while doing it. If people don’t know “why” we are helping them; they’ll just view us as doing our daily good deed. We need to communicate that we are showing the love of Christ and then share what Christ did for us and them. That by having faith in Jesus for forgiveness of sins and eternal life because of his work on the cross – they can become a part of God’s family. (Not sharing the Gospel can become “de-evangelism”)
c) How much can or should we do? – This will need to be evaluated as time goes by. We have other ministries, other ways to advance the Gospel, Gospel Communities, KidZone, etc. We can’t do it all – but as we see opportunities, we can and should love our neighbors as we have opportunity.
There are critics of this type of ministry who categorize such efforts as the “Social Gospel”; however, by always emphasizing sharing Jesus, churches can avoid falling into this trap. Jesus helped people!
Also, there will be other “service-evangelism” type of efforts in the future: our Gospel Communities will take on projects, our whole body will engage in some efforts, and I trust that individually we will show people the love of Christ in our everyday lives.
John Maxwell says, “You can impress people from a distance; but you can only impact them up close.” Let’s be a church that loves God, each other, and our neighbors enough to get up close and share a helping hand – and the Gospel.