Practical Benevolence Ideas

For Christians – ministers, leaders, members alike – benevolence is one of the most emotional and challenging issues laid before us by the Lord. The major problems seem to distill to one deep question: how do we harmonize responsible stewardship concerns with the gospel imperative to serve the poor? The following suggestions were made off the top of my head in a ministerial forum, but I would like to share a broader discussion of them here, if possible.

This is the original question I was asked:

Benevolence, however, is an important aspect of the Lord’s work that individually and congregationally we are called to do. May I suggest that you give some positive suggestions as to how churches may do this work more effectively? And could these suggestions as well be practical. After all, some churches may get as many as 2-5 phone calls a day requesting help with bills, etc. Many are on heavily traveled roads and have several show up on their door step on a regular basis. Some churches have almost all local/community people to call, some have mostly “passers-through” who want help along their journey. And every church is limited by both money and man hours. Further, many churches do not allow the preacher to do “church” benevolence, and anything he does is out of his own pocket. IT IS NOT EASY. What suggestions do you have to get the job done effectively?

The following were my responses:

1) Take the church out of the phone book. By all accounts in the discussion, this is the main source of scammers. Remove their ability to contact you. And most faithful Christian travellers in 2008 do not wait until they get somewhere to plot their course.

2) Get out of the building. Again, by all accounts, this is the second main source of scammers – beating a path to the building. Get out of the building, and the scammers will stop coming.

3) Time management at the congregational level- I do not believe that there is a true manpower issue. I believe the issue is willpower. People are unwilling to sacrifice their routine luxuries of time and recreation to serve their community in the name of Christ. Thus the labor falls on the preacher, who put the target on himself when he took the job. The way we currently operate is comfortably wrong.

4) Get involved benevolently in the local community. Stop waiting for the needy to come to you. GO TO THEM. Start small – start right where your church building is. Adopt one block. Adopt one family. Then expand that gradually, and watch the kingdom of God burst forth. If your church building is in an affluent area… MOVE! Go where the poor are. When you know you are deeply involved in benevolence, saying “no” becomes less guilt-ridden. And when your congregation is known for benevolence, people won’t have to look you up. Your reputation will guide the needy to you.

5) Intentionality is the key here. What does your congregation INTEND to do about poverty in your community?

What do you think?

in HIS love,
nick

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About Nick Gill

orphan-poet-adoptee-soldier-prodigal-servant-husband- counselor-desperate seeker after my Father's face "I feel my body weakened by the years as people turn to gods of cruel design. Is it that they fear the pain of death, or is it that they fear the joy of life?" - Toad the Wet Sprocket

Posted on 10 January, 2008, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. A couple of things I’d add:(1) If available in your community, get acquainted with groups like Traveller’s Aid, etc. When presented with “passing through” cases, these can be referred to someone better equipped to check them out.(2) Involve other church members. The preacher shouldn’t be making all of these decisions on his own. Helping others is a blessing that all should get to participate in .(3) Remember that being taken advantage of isn’t the end of the world. God doesn’t condemn us for being duped, but He does condemn those who fail to help others. And besides, your act of kindness may even touch that person’s heart someday in the future.Grace and peace,Tim

  2. Overall, I tried to expand the range of my recommendations beyond the preacher level. I get so frustrated with the relationship between minister and leadership on this issue that I forget points like that.Many communities also will have foundations that keep records of local benevolence recipients. For a yearly donation, these groups will help you find out information on those who come to you.On #2, the saddest fact seems to be that without the constant prodding of preachers, most congregations would do far less than the mediocre (at best) levels of benevolence they currently maintain.in HIS love,nick

  3. You’re singing my song! Great points!

  4. Thanks for the trackback, John!

  5. I think you are on your way.My initial thought was I thought you were going to talk about benevolence but then you got there.

  6. Excellent thoughts Nick.I’m not sure how we’ll engage the poverty issue yet. But we’re praying about it, and as our first Emerging Community takes shape in April, we’ll follow God’s lead.

  7. Dear Ben,I’m sure your group will address poverty in Rochester in a way consistent with your calling as New Creation, Image-Bearers and Well-Diggers.When purpose is grasped, believed, and imagined by a group, particulars work out much more effectively and intuitively.If a group believes its purpose to be an enclave of righteousness in the midst of hopeless corruption, the particulars of that groups’ praxis will reflect that purpose.When a group believes its purpose to be a beachhead and a preview of new creation in a fallen, groaning, and desperately hungry world, the aprticulars of that groups’ praxis will reflect THAT purpose.Sadly, too many congregations of the Lord’s people, regardless of self-chosen labelling or nomenclature, fall into group A.in HIS love,Nick

  8. Stoned-Campbell Disciple

    I appreciate your thoughts. Keep faithful in prayer.Bobby Valentine

  9. Nick – Oh how I wish we’d all would start doing these simple points. For some reason “benevolence” is always the low man on the totum pole. I’m sharing these points with my people. I’ll sure make sure you get the shout out for it!Blessings

  10. Nick,I believe these are great ideas.I think the church needs to be more benevolent. We need to be known for being gracious and merciful to the poor. I think if people take advantage of the church, in the end they will answer to God; but that shouldn’t stop us from our calling. Again, great ideas and post brother.Keep up the great thoughts and challenging us with these great ideas and ways in which we can make a differnce in our communities.

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