Violent crime is nothing new to our twin cities, here in central Illinois, especially the last 5 years. While we may grow calloused to being bombarded constantly with news reports of tragedy, it hits a nerve when a child or teenager is struck down as was the case recently. As people try to solve issues on the political level, what is the spiritual role and responsibility of the Church?
Throughout history, God’s people have had a habit of getting off track. In those moments, He sought to raise up a servant with a prophetic voice to return them to their proper place to fulfill their purpose. We see Ezekiel as one of those people charged to call the Israelites to attention: “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, BUT I FOUND NO ONE” (22:30)
In those days, cities needed to be defended. If there were no natural defenses they built walls, sometimes 15’-25’ thick and 25’ high. Walls were an indication of a city’s strength and ability to fend off attacks. Atop these walls were watchmen constantly scanning the horizon who would warn of impending danger. They were the first line of defense. But due to corruption and wickedness in Judah, no one was found to fulfill this crucial role. They weren’t available to perform their duties and failed the people of the city who relied on them.
In the same way, much of the Church has grown worldly and apathetic. Not only have we failed to diligently stand on the wall, we’ve been negligent in protecting anyone except ourselves. The WALL is the prayers of the Church lifted up for the people of the city from the weakest to the strongest, youngest to the oldest. The voices that cry out against moral decay and compromise, leading the way to true repentance, and multitudes seeking after God. Then we will experience His justice and peace.
God is searching out the courageous who will stand on the wall and fight for their city–against an enemy who is ruthlessly trying to destroy His people. Individuals, small groups, congregations…all are being called up for active duty to drop to our knees and pray. Our cities don’t need our programs and one-time events which are ultimately self-serving. They need us practicing 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Matthew 28:18-20. Until then, the enemy is free to do what he wants.
Our mission here at Salt & Light is sharing the love of God by fighting poverty with opportunities that empower people for lasting change. As we work to accomplish this mission every day, we partner together with many groups, individuals, and organizations in the community, and some of our most important partnerships are with churches.
A partnership, by definition, is an arrangement in which both parties make a contribution, and both parties reap the benefits. As churches enter into partnership with Salt & Light, the contributions they make are often easy to identify—financial support, material donations, and volunteer service—and these have clear benefits for the organization. But it’s often less clear what contribution Salt & Light is making in these partnerships that would help to benefit churches as they fulfill their own mission. Here are four important ways that Salt & Light wants to partner with your church in the shared work of Kingdom-building in our community.
Salt & Light can help the people of your church:
- develop spiritually healthy attitudes toward material wealth, poverty, and possessions. Our culture views poverty as the simple lack of material things. For people of faith, a close study of the Scripture paints a picture of poverty as much more than a solely material affair. Poverty of status, poverty of relationship, poverty of being, are all treated as an equal part of true poverty in the eyes of God. In their book “When Helping Hurts”, Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert paint a picture of poverty as a brokenness that can apply to any of our foundational relationships with God, others, ourselves, or our possessions. Author Bryant Myers describes it as “the absence of shalom in all its meanings.” Working together with our participants at Salt & Light, truly getting to know those who lack material resources, helps bring a real-life understanding of the way those resources fail to define our true poverty or wealth. With this understanding, we can know that our material possessions can never truly make us rich. Therefore, having them or losing them isn’t of primary importance in our lives. Mutuality and generosity become more important. We can understand that fighting poverty means more than just helping others accumulate money. We can hold what we own more loosely. We can walk away from the need to control others in the area of their material possessions, or value them based on their material wealth.
- develop a spiritually healthy view of themselves. If poverty is actually something we experience in all areas of life, and not just a material lack, then poverty is something we all experience. All of us carry some degree of brokenness—none of us are in the place of fullness that God intends for us. Understanding the true role of material possessions in determining wealth and poverty will not only help prevent us from undervaluing others based on their material lack, it will also help prevent us from overvaluing ourselves based on our material abundance. Our financial gifts and material donations are important and helpful contributions, but as we volunteer and shop alongside others in Salt & Light’s buildings, we’ll see many others who are making contributions just as valuable, with their time, ability, wisdom, joy, and the sacrificial giving of the limited resources they have. We’ll begin to understand that it’s not our gifts that cause lasting life change in others, but the opportunities they help to create for others to use their gifts as well.
- develop spiritually healthy relationships with others. No one wants to be someone else’s project. But if poverty is something we are all experiencing, then the path to abundance—material, relational, and spiritual—is something we are all walking together. The ability to grow and learn from each other in relationship is most effective when it is mutual—when each person knows that they are accepted by the other as they are, as equals, who both have something to contribute and something to learn. Salt & Light’s model is built for community participation on equal footing; it is a not a system that requires impoverished recipients and wealthy benefactors. Every person in your church who gets involved here will be part of a system in which everyone is making a contribution that is equally valued, as they shop, volunteer, and share. This means everyone is also a recipient of all the benefits of the relationships, learning, and community that are built here.
- develop a spiritually mature understanding of the gospel. The message of the gospel is the message of reconciliation—of coming into right relationship. God wants to bring us into right relationship with him, and as a result, into right relationships with others, with ourselves, and with material creation. As believers in Christ, we’ve been made ambassadors of the Kingdom, but to effectively fulfill that responsibility, we must understand the nature of our message. The good news of the gospel is that we are all poor and broken, and we are invited into a Kingdom that is offered only to the poor. Through our work here at Salt & Light, we are able to see ourselves as all equally broken, all equally impoverished, but all equally loved, chosen, and sought after by God. The practical ways that we work together here to create opportunity, sharpen skills, build community, and meet needs, are all ways that we move together toward that reconciliation in all areas, as we learn to more fully live out the heart of the gospel.
The staff at Salt & Light works with churches to do small group presentations, tours, special events and projects, monthly engagement, and even sermon series that can support your congregation’s work in these areas of discipleship, generosity, and spiritual growth. We would love to talk with you further about opportunities to partner with your church.