In conversation with a couple of fellow Christians in the laundry early this morning, we agreed on a couple of things which I believe are important. Christian ministry is far broader than preaching on a Sunday, or sharing my experience of Jesus Christ with someone I meet. We are encouraged and called and perhaps even required by our church to engage in a Christian ministry which frees those who are trapped and imprisoned, which confronts injustice and transforms the conditions under which the marginalised and oppressed have to live, which reaches out to heal the sick, to empower the unemployed, feed the hungry and visit the lonely.
Experience of secular development has shown that the desperation of the poorest can destroy the very efforts to help them – when aid is given without Christ.
Neither is anyone able to hear the Good News, whose empty stomach is gripping their whole awareness; nor one whose addiction is forcibly drawing him or her back to its source; nor yet one who is in mortal fear for the life of their child or their lover.
Talking about these issues together, we agreed that Christian ministry must work by bringing the Gospel in the right hand (left hand, for those of you who are lefties!) and constructive help with the other. In mission, of whatever kind, put the Gospel of Christ foremost (not necessarily first), that the spiritual need be provided, and together with it, neither afterward nor beforehand apart from the Good News, give whatever is needed to help, in love from the heart.
Giving food for the hungry, read also from the Word. With prayer for the sick, give a loving touch – and bring medicine! Visiting the poor, share Christ, and share a way to earn money to live. When praying for an addict, also offer a place of retreat from the world of temptation. In addressing the spiritual desolation of one who is lost, also show, and wherever possible provide, a way of escape from a desperate physical situation. To the oppressed, preach the gospel of liberation – and take a stand against the oppressor. To the repentant criminal, bring the gospel of forgiveness – and find someone who will give an ex-con a job. You get the idea.
Who do you know in your own life, who needs you to minister the Gospel of Jesus to them, and also…?