Adventists and Social Action: Part 1 —  March 1, 2015

Every day you wake up, you should ask yourself two questions:

What breaks my heart?

What am I going to do about it?

Ask any church whether we should do community service and your will get almost universal agreement in a “yes” response.  We want to help people. We know we should. Do we?

Churches that have the biggest impact in their community serve in 3 ways:

  1. Charity– This level focuses on providing assistance for immediate needs. I would venture a guess that most churches expend their efforts and budget in this level. Examples are:

*Food bank

*Clothes closet

*Utility or rent assistance

*Funeral expense.

Jesus said we will always have the poor with us, so it is perfectly biblical for churches to “do good”. We don’t want to eliminate charity, but we do want to enhance and expand it. I must question whether I am doing enough, when the same people come back week after week for the same needs. In order to break that cycle, consider two other levels of involvement.

  1. Certification– A smaller percentage of churches provide training that can help a person improve their situation. ESL classes, job training, job fairs, computer skills are all examples of certification. The objective here is that the people that are in need can acquire skills and connections that can help them go to another level.
  2. Change Systems- An even smaller percentage of churches work in this third level. This level works through word and deed to address systemic deficiencies that if improved or transformed can increase opportunities and decrease the probabilities of people continuing in vicious cycles of poverty, abuse and neglect for generation after generation. While we don’t tell a hungry person to wait 5 years while we change some laws before we can feed them, we also don’t isolate ourselves from lawmakers and systems that can hinder the possibilities and lives of real people.

Neglecting our social responsibility and using our influence and voice to address the abuse, injustice and system dysfunction is, I believe, not just an option but a mandate.

Consider this quote:

“A religion that leads men to place a low estimate upon human beings, whom Christ has esteemed of such value as to give Himself for them; a religion that would lead us to be careless of human needs, sufferings, or rights, is a spurious religion. In slighting the claims of the poor, the suffering, and the sinful, we are proving ourselves traitors to Christ. It is because men take upon themselves the name of Christ, while in life they deny His character, that Christianity has so little power in the world. The name of the Lord is blasphemed because of these things.”  (Mount of Blessings 137)

Remember, churches that have the biggest impact in their community serve in 3 ways:

Level one: Charity- We want to give a person a fish. (sorry vegans, it’s just an illustration!)

Level two: Certification- we teach the person to fish.

Level three: Change systems- we work so that it possible that the person can own a lake. With fish in it.

When you look around your community, how would you respond to the two questions posed at the beginning of the chapter?

What breaks my heart?

What am I going to do about it?

Coming up:

Over the next weeks I will share how to go about doing this in your local church, and how to impact your community in all three levels.

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2 responses to Adventists and Social Action: Part 1

  1. Elder Hernandez, your message this week really spoke to my heart. It is so easy to write a check or give an offering and avoid getting our “hands” dirty. We deceive ourselves into thinking that we have done our duty in helping the poor. I really like the statement you made for level 3: “We work so that it’s possible that the person can own a lake. With fish in it.” Thank you for reminding us of our raison d’être.