When speaking to people of the Christian faith, I often remind them that to be “Christian” means we are to be “Christ-like.” By necessity, we should know what Christ taught, what he preached and accept the miracles of his actions as proof of His authority to preach and teach.
When one looks at the Gospels, it is apparent that Christ spent his time with the poor, oppressed, sick and ordinary people who were under the subjection of the Hebrew leadership in collusion with their Roman oppressors. In other words, Jesus served the people of the Hebrew and surrounding communities who did not have political connections, wealthy friends in high places or religious leaders who were more concerned with their own well being than that of the people they were to serve.
This understanding of Jesus’ ministry is what undergirds my responsibility to serving the community in which I live.
It is vitally important for men and women who profess to be Christian to realize that saving souls is not our only call and responsibility. If a person wanders into one of our sanctuaries and is convicted by the Spirit of God to accept Jesus as their savior, the church’s work is not complete. It is just beginning.
The church now assumes responsibility for helping that individual grow in knowledge about Jesus and in becoming His disciple so their lives can be changed for the better. This means the church has to address the issues of life in which individuals find themselves. You save the drug addict’s soul. Now what? The prostitute comes forward, but how does the church help improve their life?
Long-term believers and members of the church face daily challenges, too. What does the church do about school systems where almost 50 percent of children who get suspended from schools are African Americans?
How are we to address community policing when less than 8 percent of police officers understand what it means to be black in America?
Or what is the responsibility of God’s faithful when politicians are so corrupted by major corporations giving their election campaigns huge sums of money in exchange for influence, one-sided legislation and political favors – usually at the expense of the people who sit in our pews every Sunday and support the churches’ vision with their nickels and dimes?
From my perspective and understanding, volunteering is not an option but a part of the calling to men and women who profess to be God’s people. As a matter of fact, the term volunteering is actually a misnomer. I believe in doing ministry, doing the work of a believer to go wherever poor, oppressed, exploited folk need a voice to speak out on their behalf.
This may mean attending City Council meetings, School Board meetings, political forums and debates or leading marches down the citadel of capitalism for faith, freedom and justice. It means going to court to protest the criminalization of teenage African American men when the prosecutors have the discretion to not hang lifelong criminal records for non-violent teenage actions. This is particularly an ugly side of the American contemporary criminal (in)justice system – especially when the law is applied so unequally right down racial lines. Black men and women are being prosecuted and jailed for crimes in which white persons get much lesser charges or no charges at all.
Who is to speak out for these people? Who is to teach them their rights and show them the way to challenge the evil ones who suppress them and hide behind the laws of the nation? What are we to do? Give mulligans to evildoers or confront them with their transgressions so that the Holy Spirit of God can convict them and change their heart?
I must warn Christian leaders not to think they have the authority to forgive sin. Only God can do that.
Our call is to be Christ-like and live Jesus’ teaching. Community ministry is what I do in response to the teaching of Jesus.
It is undergirded by the answer Jesus gave the Hebrew lawyer when asked what is the greatest commandment. Jesus answered, “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all soul, and with all thy mind. And the second is like unto it, thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Allen, a minister at New Hope Baptist Church, is the president of the Virginia Beach Interdenominational Ministers Conference. For information about the conference, email email@example.com or search @vbimc on Facebook.
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