How should churches work for justice?

Hey, thanks again for sending in questions related to our recent sermons.

As you know, we are coming near the end of our series entitled A Better Story, in which

we are identifying six conversations that we can enter into to show that Jesus is a

better story.

This last week we talked about justice in various conversations that are already happening

around us, around the theme of justice and how we can enter into those and talk about

Jesus as a better story and that he has a better story on the idea of justice.

So the question comes in this week asking, how should churches be involved in the work

of justice?

How should churches do justice?

Which is a great question.

First I encourage everyone to go back and listen to a sermon Steve preached July 11th

entitled Calling for Justice in an Unjust World.

You can look that up on our website.

Go back and listen to that again.

One of the things that Steve talked about in his sermon, which is very helpful, is three

different levels of work.

One is relief, the next is development, and then the top level is really like policymaking

or changing of entire systems or structures.

So you can think about that as relief is give a man a fish and he’s not hungry today.

Development is like teach a man to fish so that he knows how to get food himself.

And then the third level, policymaking or changing of systems and structures, is really

making a system of the world that would eliminate the problem in the first place so that nobody’s

hungry even to begin with.

So giving a fish or teaching a fish is now just unnecessary.

And so which one of those should the church be involved in?

The higher level of you go, the more of a challenge it is to be involved, the more effort

needed to make a change, and really the more complicated it becomes.

And so churches, I think, should definitely be involved in relief work, providing for

immediate needs of people who are hurting.

We can do that.

We do that through our Benevolence Fund.

We’re glad to do that.

In James, it talks about if you see someone in need and you just say, be well, I’ll pray

for you, God bless you, see ya, that’s not exercising our faith.

And so we absolutely need to be involved in relief work.

But in terms of development or policy, really the primary mission of the church, of course,

is to proclaim Jesus, teach people to follow everything that he says.

And so the more that we’re using our resources to do something other than that, which is

really good, development or policymaking, those are really important things, but it

is kind of a distraction from primary mission of proclaiming Jesus, teaching everybody to

follow everything that he does.

Development work normally happens in what you would consider like non-profits, right?

This is to teach a man to fish.

What schools can we build?

Although we do have a school here at our church, which is great.

So we’re involved a little bit in development work.

Or intermediate housing for people coming off the street.

Should we build houses?

That’s a kind of development work.

Although we do, we are involved in that somewhat with our Grace Village project, right?

But it’s not, so we are involved in that a little bit, but that’s not the main thing

that we do.

Our main mission is to proclaim Jesus, teach people to follow everything that he’s commanded.

And then policy work.

You think about the huge issues of, you can say, justice in our society, because remember

we talked about in our sermon that justice is setting right whatever has gone wrong.

Whatever isn’t shalom, we need to keep working at until it becomes shalom, right?

And there’s all kind of huge issues in our world.

You can say poverty, right?

Or you can say refugees right now.

What should the policy be on poverty?

That is a massive effort.

That’s very complicated, right?

What policies would actually lead to less poverty?

People debate about that.

It’s very complicated to figure out.

All kind of evidence showing what policies have actually created more poverty.

Throwing our efforts into trying to figure that out is just not what the church does.

The church proclaims Jesus, teaches people to follow after him.

And putting our efforts into policy work I think would really distract from what our

primary mission is.

But if you are an individual Christian, it’s different than corporate church, you should,

to whatever extent you can, be involved in all three.

Somebody asks you for assistance, help them.

If a refugee shows up on your door, help them.

You should look into what development work you can do.

In terms of policy, you should really pray through how you vote, who you support.

You should do all those things.

If you’re in a policy making decision, a position, if you’re superintendent of a school, of a

whole school system, and you can really affect some change in what happens, you should be

using your faith to pray through what is the most God honoring policy.

What would bring the most shalom to my sphere of influence?

Depending on the position you’re in, your influence might be a little bit wider than

anybody else’s.

So absolutely, as individual Christians, we should be as involved as we can be in all

of those areas.

But as a corporate church, the wider the influence is, the more complicated it is to be involved

in those spaces, the more resources it takes to be involved in those places.

If we’re spending all of our resources trying to figure out what to do with refugees, then

we’re not spending our resources doing what should be primary for us, which is proclaiming

Jesus and teaching people to follow everything that he commands.

But if we’re teaching people to follow everything he commands, then individual Christians would

be out in all of these spaces doing all this work that we’ve been talking about.

I hope that’s helpful.

There’s a distinction between relief, development, and policy, and then I think there’s a distinction

between both corporate church and individual Christians.

And so as you continue to process that, if you want to send in questions as a follow-up

to the response to this question, feel free to do that.

We’re always willing to continue this conversation and love being able to do so.

So thanks for sending that one in, and we will see you next time.