|There has been a lot of discussion lately in these pages and in other media about the size and role of government. I realize the debate is always simmering just below the surface, but it seems to boil over during election years—in which we now find ourselves immersed.
Conservatives and liberals—and those somewhere in between—regularly debate the proper role and function of government: Should governments, and to what extent, be involved in providing school lunches, feeding the poor, providing various social services and paying for football stadiums?
While these debates generally reside in political venues, many Christians have entered the arena and argued both sides of the issue on behalf of their faith. Certainly the Bible—and Jesus in particular—have a lot to say about numerous issues and how to live in our world as a follower of Christ. However, I wonder if we’re missing the point a bit and asking the wrong questions.
Paul Bertelson made a compelling point in the article on Real Resources on page (?). He talked about how many nonprofit ministries are silo-ed from each other, operating separately and at a distance from each other. They may be doing similar tasks or trying to impact the same communities, but they are doing it without the aid, assistance and possibly even the knowledge of the other ministries doing the same thing.
When it comes to the debate over the size of government, I wonder if instead of asking how big and what functions governments should perform, we should ask, “How can churches and Christians work together better so that government is needed less?”
It’s not a new proposal. Throughout the centuries, the Church has been called upon to carry the burden for societies unable to properly care for its citizens. These movements, if we can call them that, haven’t always succeeded, but they represent a fulfillment to a calling Jesus gave His followers, which includes us. Care for the sick and downtrodden, treat the wounded and provide a cool glass of water to others in need.
How does that translate into modern-day society?
What if churches set aside empty rooms in their buildings for members to bring in non-perishable food items? An empty, unused room could quickly become a life source for many in their communities.
Churches could open their doors once a week or even every day for community members in need to stop by and pick up the sustenance they need for that day, week or however long.
Add to that a clothing room where church members can bring shirts, pants, socks, shoes and other items for community members needing help. Instead of holding individual garage sales, church members could combine to help clothe an entire community.
To double or triple the impact, what if two or three or four churches in a community combined efforts and took it upon themselves to help clothe, feed and otherwise care for members in their neighborhoods or communities? I can only imagine the lives permanently altered—both physically and spiritually.
I realize many churches and communities already participate in similar things. But what if this “gospel partnership” spread out from the churches currently doing it to nearly every single church in our cities? Wouldn’t the results be incredible?
Then no longer would the debate be about how large and to what extent governments become involved in our lives; no, the debate would switch to how we can coordinate our efforts and partner together to care for and impact our neighbors—regardless of their needs.
It’s not a new challenge but one that can and will have immediate and “otherworldly” results.
Scott Noble is the editor of the Minnesota Christian Examiner.