The Challenge of Mercy Ministry with Steve Allen
This morning, it was our joy to host an online conversation with Steve Allen. Steve is a friend of the NACPF and serves as a NAMB mobilizer in New York. In today's Coaching and Mentoring Session, Steve facilitated a helpful discussion on the topic of mercy ministry in church planting.
The rest of the world appears to have a higher commitment to community than we do in the West. Allen pointed out this difference affects ministries in a number of ways; one of which is the exercise of mercy. Therefore, as those committed to planting churches in the west, we must consider the question What will make the church more merciful? Allen noted that history tells a story of our relative lack of mercy in the west, but times appear to be changing.
Mercy ministry among churches today is on the upswing. Why? Allen suggested a reaction to the need for more mercy is affecting a swing of the mercy pendulum, back in the right direction. More churches are asking who is my neighbor? Biblical answers to this question are pertinent and could carry a potential to drive the church forward in her mission. In addition, many evangelicals are refocusing on the urban context. This, too, is a welcomed change.
When asked Do you think we have a good understanding of the Missio Dei now?, Allen believes having the conversation is the most important part and a necessary first step. He also noted that experience shows churches will bend toward a ministry of proclamation or a mercy of ministry. Therefore, exploring the important issues of church mission, responsibility in our communities, and prioritizing the gospel holds immeasurable benefits. As Allen explored a number of these issues, his insights were clear and thought provoking. Listeners were likely impacted by two overarching themes. First was the encouragement to avoid the tendency to divorce proclamation from mercy ministry. These two ministry emphases can and should work together for the good of God's glory. Second was the exhortation to humbly discern your own negligence concerning mercy ministry. No matter who you are or where you live or in what capacity you serve the church, it is likely you are missing something. Our commitment to the Great Commission, then, compels to evaluate our ministries in the light of Scripture, and then adjust as God directs.
Many other helpful thoughts and instructions were presented. To make these thoughts more accessible, we are preparing to post a helpful article Steve wrote - an article which guided this conversation. Check back here to see the article once it is posted.
Until then...we have placed a few of the important questions church planting leaders asked, with high point answers from Steve:
I’m going to have mercy ministry and social justice as a key component of my church. How do we go about that when we don’t have a lot of money or manpower at my church? -Balance ministry of mercy with ministry of proclamation -If God’s calling you to a ministry of mercy, enlist someone who can keep proclamation primary "Please do not let mercy ministry consume too much of your time week in and week out? Ministering to the poor is very important in Scripture but Jesus also says the poor will always be with us."
How can my church be most wise in navigating a balance between mercy ministry and proclamation? -You must figure out how to balance Jesus’ statements about the poor, as well as what the Bible says about our responsibility to proclaim the gospel. -Be careful to never move past the core of the Gospel, which is proclamation of good news (“making disciples"). "The church is the whole body. The outworking of our discipleship is how we live out God’s calling to be merciful. The founding of the church is on the proclaimed gospel and the making of disciples."
How much should we get involved with para-church organizations and other social organizations? -Delegation is the key. Every church planter carries a full schedule of essential ministries. Therefore, utilizing the whole body of the church, especially deacons is a big part of the answer. -You do want the other organizations in your community to know your church, but also to know very clearly that you’re a Gospel-driven church. Good communication can lead to healthy partnership in gospel-centered mercy ministry.
How do we help the poor? Not the homeless but the single mom or the people really in crisis? How do we find them and reach them? It seems like there’s a neglected population of poverty stricken people. -Utilize opportunities like vocational counseling and financial management counseling. -Be careful to equip people with the skills they need, rather than enabling continued dependence. Don’t allow an impoverished person so dependent on you that you end up hurting rather than helping. -Utilize deacon ministry in this area. Church plants tend to work hard to raise up future elders. Don't under-estimate the need for deacons to help with the challenging ministries of your church plant. -Find ways other than just giving money to help (providing tutoring for kids, help those single parents navigate life, etc).
Of the 30+ listeners who attended the call, the following resources were recommended for additional reading when thinking through the importance and challenges of mercy ministry."
Concerning the needs of poverty, this is a good resource: When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert Interested in training to "Empower the poor in your own community?" Check out the Chalmers Center Unrelated to the Chalmers Center, but also helpful: jobsforlife.org This DeYoung and Gilbert book was very helpful: What is the Mission of the Church by DeYoung and Gilbert Another helpful resource is Theology and Practice of Mission by Bruce Ashford, ed.