Meeting people at their point of need

There have been some fascinating and insightful responses to this series of posts on having a social impact. Here are some of them.

Gary said:

Jesus wasn't going around thinking "How can I have social impact in this town today?" Being about His Father's business included that aspect as well. My point was that if we do the works of Jesus, and focus on things from a spiritual perspective, we'll have the social impact we're looking for. If we come at the problem from a purely "social impact" perspective, and are only concerned about how we can impact people's physical needs and fail to preach the gospel, we have failed.

Gary again:

While many are trumpeting social impact/issues, they usually forget the spiritual aspect. To spread Jesus without taking care of a person's material needs is not really helping the cause of Christ that much. After all, Jesus was concerned about the whole man not just the spiritual. Feed someone first and then they are more readily willing to accept the "why" behind what you did. My point was–and is–that to talk about "social impact" without including the real gospel being preached is to miss the mark.

Dan said:

To go too far that direction (of only preaching the Gospel) would create an imbalance in the teachings of Jesus. I think evangelicals in general over the last 40-50 years have been mostly out of balance in that direction. Many openings for the Gospel have been created in recent years through groups like World Vision, Samaritan's Purse and my denomination's ReachGlobal ministries that are going into Muslim countries and unreached areas to help those suffering from natural disasters, hunger disease, etc.

UnkleE said:

"Jesus wasn't about social impact; He was about his Father's business"  Jesus said caring for people was his mission – see Luke 4:18-21:  So proclaiming good news of the Lord's favor, setting the oppressed free, freeing prisoners and healing blindness are all parts of Jesus' mission. And it is clear from Jesus' ministry that he was addressing both spiritual and physical blindness, oppression, captivity and freedom. When he sent his followers out to teach the kingdom of God, he told them to do both physical and spiritual ministry – Luke 10:9: "Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’" Then he tells us to go out and do the same – Matthew 28:18-19: "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." What he had commanded them was both physical and spiritual ministry, and that is surely what he still commands us to do today. So if we want to truly follow Jesus, we won't miss either aspect of the good news of the kingdom of God.

Jesus met people at their point of need. If their need was physical, he ministered to that need (healing, feeding the five thousand–even providing wine for a wedding) and that opened the way to speak about the Kingdom. If their needs were emotional, he dealt with those (deliverance, reassurance of God's provision etc). He taught on Kingdom lifestyle (Sermon on the Mount). And obviously, he dealt with people's spiritual needs by giving them the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Can we have a social impact?

The Lord has been challenging me over the last couple of weeks.

It started a couple of weeks ago when I went to Exponential–not so much the conference itself (which was good) but through some of the stories I heard. I went straight from there to a conference run by the San Antionio Baptist Association where Tony and I were speaking on the principles of simple/organic church.  God is doing some amazing things through the people involved there. Again, the stories were captivating.

Let me give you a some examples:

There is a network of organic churches in California that looked at the problems their city faced and found that homelessness was a major issue. As they prayed about it, they sensed God wanted them to tackle the problem. Their involvement has reduced homelessness by 25% but more than that, has involved them in all kinds of projects like teaching life skills, interview techniques etc., as well as housing and job creation. They have come to the attention of the city council and the local social services. They are making a social impact on their city.

Another network of house churches, this time in Colorado, asked their local middle school what they could do to help. The answer surprised them. They needed bicycle helmets. When they met that need, other needs surfaced. The result, 18 months or so down the line, is that they are working with the social services in their city in all kinds of different areas. Twenty-five of them from their network of churches leads a group of around 200 volunteers, many of whom are not Christians, to meet the needs of their city. They have all kinds of opportunities to introduce people to Jesus. The social service department often calls them when they have a crisis. Again, they are friends with the mayor, the city council and others in authority in their city. They too are having a social impact.

A third example is a group who the Lord led to work with kids in the poorest section of their city, an area of predominantly federal housing. They started kids clubs and now have more than 500 kids, aged 5-18, involved. What these kids need most is parents. They find themselves going to court with these kids when they get into trouble, visiting the schools with them when there are disciplinary problems, working with the families. Recognized all through the area where they work because of their yellow shirts, they have access to many of the families in the area and are leading many to Christ. Social impact yet again.

What can God do with a group of people who make themselves available to him for their city?

What stories are you aware of?