"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Churches that Meet Needs or a Social Government?

Building a Women's Shelter and Community Center in Enid
"Imagine," wrote John Lennon, "no need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man."

Imagine. 

What a world that would be.

Unfortunately, Lennon wrote in the first verse of his hit song, "Imagine...no religion, too." 

Sorry, John. You can't have it both ways. 

It's either God or government; His people or a nation's politics; voluntary charity or mandated socialism. The only way your imaginative dream turns into inspirational reality is through God's plan or the government's plan. 

What's the difference between the two?

God empowers His people internally to voluntarily and sacrificially give of our resources to meet the social needs (food, shelter, income) of people around us, impacting the cities and communities where we live. 
"I was once young but now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread" (Psalm 37:25). 
On the other hand, the government demands outwardly that its people forcibly and personally pay taxes to meet the social needs (food, shelter, income) of all citizens, impacting cities and community where citizens live.

The government is indeed needed for the common good of all citizens (building roads and bridges, the nation's defense, etc...), for as Abraham Lincoln once wrote:
"The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves — in their separate, and individual capacities."
However, the dream of  "no greed or hunger" pertains to an individual and his or her social needs (food, shelter, income).

In God's plan, God's people are at the forefront of providing for the poor, giving shelter to the homeless, and assisting people to work, providing a minimum standard of living. 

Unfortunately, institutional churches who profess to have members that have been captivated by the love of God have abdicated our missional purpose.

American churches have turned to the government to meet the needs of broken individuals. 

The rise of social government in America parallels the level of self-absorption in the churches of America. 

When we who lead churches are more interested in pot-luck dinners to feed ourselves than we are shelters to feed the homeless, we abdicate our missional purpose. When we who are members of institutional churches care more about musical performances that we do unwed mothers, we abdicate our missional purpose. When we who cite membership in a local church aren't actively involved in building, staffing, and funding shelters for the abused and abandoned;  when we aren't pursuing improvements in the societal conditions of the overlooked and underprivileged; and when we aren't visiting those in prison and providing jobs for them when they get out; we are abdicating our God-given missional purpose. 

Members of conservative evangelical churches have no right to complain about the spread of socialism in our government unless we're doing something about the social needs in our country.

The problem with politics is that liberals want the government to do what their churches are supposed to be doing and conservatives don't want the government to do what their churches refuse to be doing. 

So, what's the solution? 

I suggest that there's coming a day, sooner rather than later, when churches will have to separate from the government. There will be no "incorporation" status. There will be tax deductions for donors to churches. The government will be unable to dictate what churches believe, and churches will have not any tax advantages typically enjoyed by non-profit organizations certified by the state.

Then we'll see churches motivated by the love of God to go about the business of their Master, refusing to play politics or complain about the government. It seems to me churches are confused about who really rules them. Jesus said: 
"I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’
And they said, "When did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? When did we see You seck or in prison and visit you?
And the King replied, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these...you did for Me." (Matthew 25:31-35)
Jesus is King.

He's sent us on a mission independent of any government.

I recently heard from a country where our church is heavily involved in all kinds of missional work, including drilling for water, establishing hospitals, providing education for the impoverished, farming clinics for the men, as well as shelters for the disabled and poor, etc... It was said to me by church members who have gone to work in that foreign field that "mosques are being built all over the country, especially in those places where our church is making an impact. The government funding the construction. But the government mosques aren't seeing converts. People are coming to faith in Christ all over the country because they Christian people caring for the sick, educating the underprivileged, providing career opportunities (small business and career training) for the citizens, and drilling for water to quench the thirst of entire villages. Mosques not on mission mean nothing."

Agreed.

Christian churches not on a mission also mean nothing.

What are you as a follower of Jesus Christ doing for your city, in cooperation with other Christians (that's the definition of 'The Church') to feed the hungry, house the homeless, providing instruction and training for the impoverished, and visiting prisoners in their time of need?

If we spent more time on our missional purpose as Christian people we'd have less time to complain about the government that we created by the abdication of those responsibilities that our King gave to us.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

The REAL State of the Union address!

Wade Burleson said...

Alaskan - I owe you. Thanks!

Christiane said...
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Chris Riley said...

Great post Dr. Burleson. I'm wondering to myself if the church in Ephesus lost its love in two areas: the love of the Savior and the Savior's love for all humankind.

Christiane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Agree with your ideas of our personal/individual responsibility to care for those in need.

You said: "The government is indeed needed for the common good of all citizens (building roads and bridges, the nation's defense, etc...), for as Abraham Lincoln once wrote:

"The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves — in their separate, and individual capacities."

Can't agree with your huge assumption regarding the necessity of GOV. Do a simple search on 'who will build the roads' on youtube for starters. GOV is dominated by the Prince of the Power of the air....greed/power and corruption always follows.

Ken

Tom Ross said...

The basis for the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats can be found in Isaiah 58, but in the parable, there is a twist. It speaks of Sheep and of Goats who call Christ Lord.

The sheep do what they do because that is what is required of them to become the salt of the earth.

The goats do not see Christ's purposes in the needs around them and will only meet those needs if it is of direct benefit to them to receive their reward/inheritance.

When the sheep do something to meet the needs of other people, they do so without cost or expectation of any repayments for the provisions that they have provided.

On the other hand, the goats have an expectation of being paid back for the provisions they have provided, like if they change the flat tyre on a car for a woman, then they believe that the woman owes them for the service provided. A bit like their expectation that God owes them for them calling themselves "Christian" and calling Christ Lord.

The identification of the people as either sheep or goats is only a reflection on the true heart condition of the people in this parable.

As told in Isaiah 58, we are to keep the "Sabbath Day" holy and we do that by the God/god centred character found within our hearts.

For the sheep that is God centred. For the Goats that is god centred.

For a church that is Isaiah 58 centred in their mission outlook, it will grow because they will draw the people around them into a relationship with God.

Shalom

Rex Ray said...

Tom Ross, you nailed it!

Wade,

My sister in Perryton, Texas and her husband are having Bible lessons for women and men in prison. They were surprised to see the joy of those prisoners in knowing someone cared for them..

One couple in our church are retired missionaries to Hungry. At present he’s our Baptist Association Director. Our song director is from Romania. In a short time, he’s going back there on a “Mission project” with a singing group.

My other sister and three others from our church are in Mexico. They’re helping a Mexican pastor and his church as well as working on the Baptist Seminary. Today, I received a text admiring the welded safety rail I’d made years ago on the Seminary’s second story balcony.

Tom Ross said...

REX

Coming from you that must he high praise indeed.

Shalom

Bob Cleveland said...

There must be something really weird about me, because this whole matter seems absurdly simple to me. 2 Principles involved:

1) 1 Corinthians 12 states clearly that the Holy Spirit assembles the church as He sees fit ... gifting each person in it to complete the mission He sees for the local church.
2) Psalm 37:4 tells us that, if each one of the folks in #1 will delight themselves in The Lord, He will place, in each, the desire to do what the Holy Spirit has in mind, to carry out their mission.

I just don't get why so few seem to get it.

Or not. Maybe it's just me.

Christiane said...

WADE writes, this:

"The rise of social government in America parallels the level of self-absorption in the churches of America.
When we who lead churches are more interested in pot-luck dinners to feed ourselves than we are shelters to feed the homeless, we abdicate our missional purpose. When we who are members of institutional churches care more about musical performances that we do unwed mothers, we abdicate our missional purpose. When we who cite membership in a local church aren't actively involved in building, staffing, and funding shelters for the abused and abandoned; when we aren't pursuing improvements in the societal conditions of the overlooked and underprivileged; and when we aren't visiting those in prison and providing jobs for them when they get out; we are abdicating our God-given missional purpose.
Members of conservative evangelical churches have no right to complain about the spread of socialism in our government unless we're doing something about the social needs in our country."

I think there is a new kind of focus on 'the common good' coming from young people who are seeking to serve in Congress. They may not be 'culture warriors' or even care to 'take sides' in the culture wars, but they seem to be gravitating towards needs that really do cry out for solutions among those who have little power, and in some of what they are doing, these young people are standing up to BE the voices in Congress for those who cannot hire lobbyists to bribe for their interests. That seems to me not to be such a bad thing.
We've had enough of politicians 'using' religion to convince voters to vote for them, and then they abandon the issue dear to the voters and sign on with lobbyists to do their bidding instead.

You can call trying to do the right thing many different names in Congress, but at the heart of attempting to use government to correct injustices, there may be something that looks a good deal like a return to 'ethics' and yes, maybe even a compassion that requires no lobbyists' donations to fire it up, as it's already impelling the new Congress people to take up the idea of serving those who cannot afford to donate politically. I think the word 'socialism' needs to be redefined in a country that already thrives on Social Security and Medicare . . . Yes, I do.

In the words of Alexandria, one of our new young Congressional firebrands, comes a statement not out of place on a Christian blog comment,
this:

"By nature, a society that forgives and rehabilitates its people is a society that forgives and transforms itself. That takes a radical kind of love, a secret of which is given in the Lord’s Prayer: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And let us not forget the guiding principle of “the least among us” found in Matthew: that we are compelled to care for the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick and, yes—the imprisoned."
(AOC)

Is time for our old cynical ways to be shaken up and startled, because we have not fought to prevent the lobbyists from buying our representatives, and now some new people come to take the government back out of the hands of those who bribe our representatives to accomplish their own agendas. Is time.

Christiane said...


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trhxP6VAOuc

Rex Ray said...

Tom Ross,

Touché! [Just call it as I see it.] :)

CHRISTIANE,

You quoted Wade saying. “When we who lead churches are more interested in pot-luck dinners to feed ourselves…”

Last Sunday after church our “pot-luck dinner had a ‘soup-lunch’ that people brought that ranged from anything to barbecued deer.

Also, on each table was a ‘money jar’ to be given to an organization for un-wed mothers.

In 1952, our small church was overflowing with about the same number of people that attends now even though the building is ten times as large. It even has a first class gym that schools use to practice. What’s wrong?

Rex Ray said...

Summing up the newspaper today would be SEX.

Page “A1” headline: “Former educator, pastor; arrested for online solicitation of a minor.”

Page “B5” headline: “A priest on the Dallas Catholic Diocese’s list of clergy members “credibly accused’ of sexual abuse of minors…”

Page “B6” headline: “Pope Francis confirms Catholic clergy members abused nuns.”

Page “B8” headline: “The devil jumped into the Catholic Church. Parishes react to ‘credibly accused’ list.”

Page “A5” “Police search for law enforcement impersonator: A car with a flashing roof-top light stopped a woman. He said she was speeding and asked her to get out and show him her ID. She became scared because he didn’t have a badge or gun. She drove away and he didn’t follow.”


Even Judy looked worried when I told her yesterday, I’d succumbed to temptation. She laughed when I showed a half-eaten pizza.

Hongbi said...

There has been a lot of mixing of politics and religion in recent years. Evangelicals are mostly Conservative, aligning with a Republican party that's short on compassion. Socially conscious believers are often members of churches that get accused of watering down the Gospel in favor of social programs. They get labeled Liberal, aligning with a Democrat party that devalues biblical moral standards. Both are extreme, and neither of them are biblical. Manmade government is not the answer to society's problems nor the human needs that constitute them.

Thank you for your challenge that we quit complaining about the ills of government when we're neglecting to lift a finger to help out the needs of those in desperate circumstances.

Anonymous said...

"Short on compassion" is a news and social media generated illusion that generally never gets any mud from the ground on sole of its boots. Try getting out and mixing it up yourself and you will realize the gravity of such an illusion.

Anonymous said...

"No religion too" was probably Lennon's way of denouncing what both conservative and liberal "Chrisitanity" of our generation actually demonstrates. Long on pontification and theological diatribe while demonstrating very little spiritual or personal substance for their long-windedness. Yes, he could have it both ways....in spades considering the current state of
American Christianity. He wrote at at time while he had observed both the decline of Christian authenticity in Europe and the shallowness of Christian profession vs works in America. He lived in both worlds.

Anonymous said...

One observation seems to be inescapble, the words of Lennon's song seems to strike a stronger chord with the least, last and the lost than the music of "contemporary" Christianity.

Anonymous said...

The real John Lennon. Long is clearly referring to Lennon's admission that he physically abused women -- something he touched on during a 1980 Playboy interview.
"All that 'I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved' was me. I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically -- any woman."
"I was a hitter. I couldn't express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women. That is why I am always on about peace, you see. It is the most violent people who go for love and peace."

Christiane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christiane said...

An example of a life given over to Christian service that has made a difference no 'gov't' can match:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoyOcNQ4uFI



but can gov't do a better job along the lines of rehabilitation, especially among the young? I do believe it can and has tried in certain Scandinavian countries to do so, and they are heavily into 'democratic socialism',
and they have do have connected problems that they are working on to solve;
but still, the people in these countries are devoted to a better way than the old ways that did not bring change for the better.

I worked in a drug rehab run by the Diocese of Paterson NJ for a time teaching boys from fourteen to eighteen years of age that had been remanded over to the care of 'Straight and Narrow' for addiction, for theft, for those things that might have got them into jails at an age that was too young to throw them to the wolves;
and so I learned how it CAN be that the Church and the gov't can 'work' to help those who are in trouble in ways that are productive and bring hope rather than destroy it.

In my case, there is no 'conflict' between 'democratic socialism' and the social doctrines of my faith, no. But that is another topic. The late Sr. Antonia and Wade Burleson have something in common: their love for Christ lived out to help those behind bars in response to the words of the Holy Gospel of St. Matthew to care as Our Lord cared. And that brings us hope for the future of the Church, as does the example of so many others who have freed themselves enough to reach out to broken souls who need Our Lord's love.

some thoughts

RB Kuter said...

Sometimes I wonder if John Lennon's "Imagine" could not be applied to the Millennium Kingdom with Christ ruling as global King. Not that Lennon intended it to, but it comes close.

After all, what is "religion". When someone asks me, "What religion are you?", I respond, "No religion. I am simply a follower of Jesus Christ." Were the disciples people of a "religion"? I don't think so. Of course, it is a matter of how one defines "religion" and I define it as being an ideological institution having authority over those who are members of it.

Of course we have a structured organization which some might refer to as being a "religion", called the SBC or Protestant or Catholic, or whatever. But I identify with that loosely in the sense that I have no spiritual devotion to any of those institutions and do not identify my spiritual well-being with it. I simply function within it as a follower of Jesus Christ as I serve Him as part of that collective body of King Jesus followers. Those institutions or its leaders don't control me or have any authority over me. We simply serve with our common conception of how we can serve our King together.

When King Jesus has assumed His sovereign rule over this planet in the Millennium, and He will, the world situation will be quite similar to that portrayed in John L.'s "Imagine"; no religion, no borders, nothing to kill or die for (the battle is won), living in peace, no possessions, greed or hunger, no passports, no illegal immigrants, no government well-fare.

Contrary to John's song, there will continue to be a heaven and hell, but really, when I am on earth serving King Jesus in that realm, I don't imagine heaven and hell will be a real concern of mine because I think it will be close to heaven on earth. The jury's still out, in my book, as whether there will be lost people on earth during that time, evangelism or not. There are many views on these details but I do not believe anyone has it nailed down.
The dynamics of life lived in the Millennium are a mystery in many regards, so, who knows?

Still, I love the lyrics in Lennon's song as "I" apply and interpret them and especially love the tune that goes with it.

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

You said to the effect that Christians care for the sick.

How do we do that other than prayer? My cousin is in rehab from a liver transplant. Without it he would have died in three months.

I spent five days in a Dallas Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital a while back trying to be cured of Cellulitis in my ankle. Their treatment could be summed up as, ‘Too many cooks in the kitchen’ or ‘The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand’s doing’

For examples:

An X-ray was ordered for my ankle, but my finger was X-rayed instead.

One doctor ordered a certain blood test, but another doctor tried to cancel it.

The first 3 days I was on an IV with two medicines at the same time. The last 2 days, I was on an IV with one medicine at a time because they said the first 3 days were wrong.

Every hospital I’ve been in has kept my foot elevated, but they had it level or lower than my head.

This week I received a bill close to two thousand dollars. Along with it came several scary threats if I don’t pay.

“The VA is required to collect debts owed to the government. Collection action includes your delinquent balance to the Department of Treasury’s Cross-Servicing Program and Treasury Offset Program, which will include offset of any federal and state payments to which you are entitled. This includes tax refunds, social security benefits and salary or retirement benefits. In addition, the Department of Treasury may refer your account o subject to garnishment of non-federal wages . If an attorney represents you before VA, a copy of any agreement between you and the attorney about the payment of the attorney’s fees must be filed at this address…”


My ankle was not any better when I was discharged than when I went in.

Anonymous said...

"You said to the effect that Christians care for the sick.

How do we do that other than prayer?"

Rex - get GOV out of the picture and that alone will solve much of the mess you've experienced. :)

Ken

Christiane said...

Hey REX RAY,

terrible news and how dare they treat our veterans this way???

This has to change. I did locate the web site and sure enough, you are correct in the kind of threatening that is done to veterans. The tone is terrible and disrespectful on that site.
It's so wrong on so many levels. I speak of this site:

https://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/cost/debt.asp

Do you know any advocates for the VA? Do you have a veterans' association near you where you can locate and then contact an advocate?

You need to have an advocate and/or an attorney who knows how to deal with these threats and THEY ARE THREATS. My goodness, I had heard veterans had a tough road to get medical care, but I did not realize that things were THIS bad. Do you know any lawyers locally who will advise you where to begin?

I don't think the general public know about this abuse going on.

RB Kuter said...

My comments on Lennon's "Imagine" song really had nothing to do with the point of Wade's post. Just came to my mind due to the mention of the song.

Actually, I am not sure what is the point of Wade's post. Is it to attribute the rise of socialist ideology to a perceived failure of the church to address the ills of society? Is it to propose that Christians not be involved in fighting the rise of socialism until the church remedies all the ills of society? What is the point?

A couple of things we know for sure:
1. Socialism is rising and the nation's moral standards are falling in a general sense.
2. There are going to be social needs in society until Jesus returns.
3. Don't have figures, but my perception is that followers of Jesus have never been more generous and practiced sacrificial giving and involvement toward addressing the ills of society than today. When there are natural disasters, who continues to go to those areas to rebuild and provide support even months, perhaps years, following the disaster when everyone else has abandoned the project? Who drills more water wells in Africa than anyone? Jesus followers.

So, what is the point? Certainly, followers of Jesus can give even more, but perhaps an "atta boy" would be in order in recognizing and applauding the void that the church is filling.

Christiane said...

Hello REX RAY,
I've been reading up on your situation with the VA and a lot of what I am seeing is eye-opening. I always thought that our vets at least were treated with respect, even if services were a bit slow in coming, but I didn't realize the extent of the problems OR of the contempt of the tone used by the gov't in addressing vets regarding debt as is shown in that 'warning' (it's really a THREAT) that you were sent with your hospital 'bill' . . . .

THIS SITE REALLY SHOOK ME UP, so if you have some time, take a look at THIS:
https://www.wsaw.com/content/news/7-Investigates-Veteran-Even-after-law-change-veterans-fearing-medical-debt-choosing-dying-over-ER-care--474247503.html

Christiane said...

Hello Mr. Kuter,
I struggled with Wade's post until I got it that what I think is 'socialism' is very DIFFERENT from the thinking of conservative Republican Christians;
and I took out several (more than several) of my first comments after I figured this out.

So when I hear 'socialism', I envision something wholesome that benefits the common good in ways that build up our country. I connect with that term as it is taught in my faith tradition as a sort of 'democratic socialism' as described in the Vatican Social Doctrine Compendium,
so I don't have a negative view of the term at all.

HOWEVER, the same term with a different meaning is used by conservative folks and their meaning is NOT something wholesome in that it is good for building up our country and helping people to grow and thrive so that they can be contributing citizens.

So I understand if you were confused by Wade's 'point'. Words matter, but when a word has more than one meaning to people, and they begin to disagree;
well, might be better for them to talk it out and try to understand one another's meaning.

RB Kuter said...

I think that "Socialism" as an ideology and structure of government is pretty well and accurately understood by most conservative Christians as well as those who identify themselves as "socialists" and are pushing for the country's government to function under the ideology of "socialism". Socialism is typically understood to mean a forced distribution of wealth of citizens in order to have a uniform standard of living. It is understood by those promoting it and opposing it to eventually include nationalization of industry as a means to assure of that equal distribution of wealth. It is also understood to mean government control of those freedoms people have to express opposition to the government's control in order to maintain that forced distribution of wealth/possessions. In essence, it is understood to be a former of slavery, or indenture at best, of the population with the government functioning as the master.

I imagine that everyone commenting on this blog have the concept of our being "sociable, generous, compassionate, gracious", etc., rather than the extreme level of "socialism" as it generally accepted to be and interpreted. Few people would argue over the responsibility of the general population to collectively help those who cannot help themselves or who meet with tragedy and uncontrolled crisis and disaster. My goodness, what nation in the world is as compassionate and generous as this United States in going all out to remedy the suffering in such cases. Goodness sakes, we rebuilt the nations of the Axis powers after THEY rendered such unequaled destruction on the world due to their domination agenda!

Once when explaining to some of my African friends in Zambia how the Allies, especially the US, had rebuilt the nations of Germany and Japan following WW II, they (Zambia was under a very oppressive dictatorial, socialist regime at the time) said, "WOW! We should go to war with the USA so we could be defeated and they could build us a nation like Japan and Germany!"

Anonymous said...

I largely agree with this article, but one thing that's often missed is that those Christians and those churches who "just" look after themselves are still contributing to the social needs of our country by not being burdens on others. As Christians, we should strive to do better than just "not a burden", but don't downplay this effect, the world will do that often enough! Make sure you look after your own backyard first ...

If everyone were a member of a faithful church (the ideal ... if only!) and if every faithful church looked after its members perfectly (the image of shepherd implies that the flock is their primary responsibility), then there would be no need for government to step in. Unfortunately, "the poor you will always have with you", so we do need to do better than just that.