Sowing & Social Justice
The driving force of the Seventh-day Adventist church ...
If you are a local pastor or leader here are 10 things you can do to strategically start to address all three levels of social action. You can share this with your board and leadership team.
Start by checking you purpose. Is it clearly spelled out? Do you have an “elevator speech” where you can articulate your community service vision in less than two minutes? At the end of the day, we serve because we love, not so we can be on the local news or go give seminars to gloat about how much we serve.
There are already organizations that provide many services in your community. Instead of re-inventing the wheel as we often do, why not join worthwhile organizations in what they are doing? Here is a good starting point: http://www.voa.org/. Invite organizations that have purposes akin to yours. While we need to be cautious, we also have to realize that we did not invent the wheel. There are community and religious organizations that have been doing at least some of what you are doing, usually for a longer period of time. In an event at the Hillsboro church where I last pastored, we invited several organizations to participate, including a local Christian college counseling department as well as representatives from the local hospital and police department. Just their exposure to our church ministries, opened many doors. We got five hundred teddy bears, a grant for food, free cholesterol screening, more than forty computers for a lab, all free of charge.
There are people in the community that do not belong to any organization but have foundations, personal initiatives that you can benefit from and help out in.
In every community there are usually industries that work for community enhancement. Making a visit and introducing your vision can foster good will and give you access to funds. *Visit the local business association.
*Join the local ministerial alliance.
*Visit organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
*Visit your local food bank.
Many times we have been reluctant to engage politicians, sometimes with good reason. One of the first things I do when new in a district is finding out and meeting with the mayor, council members, and representative. It’s also not difficult to contact the governor and senator. Why should we connect with the powerful in our community?
*They can point you to need areas.
*They can point you to other organizations.
*They can provide resources, volunteers and funds. This can get tricky, so tread softly.
I usually introduce myself and tell them that we have an interest in improving our community through a holistic approach that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. I ask them three questions:
*What are the greatest needs of this city/town?
*What organizations or people would you suggest I talk to?
*Are there any initiatives you are implementing that we should take a look at?
I have always found them ready to talk and willing to help. Even secular mayors like the one in Portland was touched by the actions of Christians in the community. More on this a bit later.
The best people to tell you what the community needs are…the community! Use a very simple survey or email me for an electronic copy email@example.com Talk to the people around your church. Let their needs drive your action plan.
Preach on service, study it in small groups, and speak about it in the board meetings. What gets highlighted gets done and funded. Use your influence and your example to show the benefits of service, that it not only benefits the people we serve but also the people we serve with.
Actions validate vision. You can’t really say community service is a high value when it has no budget and is relegated to a musty room with three senior citizens and a once a month feeding program. It’s interesting how funding follows vision, so see #1.
One of the common complaints of people in developing countries (and here in the states as well) is about Christians that show up, do some work, snap some pictures and leave. Any type of significant involvement in the community must be sustained involvement. That is why it’s better to start small and steady than it is to try and join every organization and do every service project.
Don’t plan anymore. Don’t try to get it perfect. Don’t wait till you have all the people, the funds or the plans. Just serve. Make it a way of life.
Now, what about the politicians in your city? How can you work with the lawmakers without selling your soul?
Growing up, I was led to believe that politics, politicians and government in general was to be avoided, and even feared. After all, you can’t really partner with someone who is going to persecute you!
Consider the following two points:
I wonder how the people in our churches who oppose Adventists running for office and being involved in politics and government would feel about:
Esther- wife of a king: Not outspoken about her faith initially (prayer, God and church are words you never find in the book of Esther) was used by God to make avail of her political influence to avoid disaster for the Jews.
Joseph- second in command in the Egyptian empire: was used by God to publically and enthusiastically share the meaning of dreams and saved a country from starvation.
Daniel- public servant with public faith: God rewarded his faithfulness to impact not one but two world empires.
The Ethiopian Eunuch- worked for the government: catalyst for Christianity in his country.
If working for politicians or being one was so offensive to God, why do we have such powerful examples of living faith? I don’t know about you, but I prefer a person in office who shares my passion for changing systems to impact our community in positive ways, while at the same time understanding that faith based organizations have in the past and should in the future have a place at the table for the betterment of the people.
I don’t believe we should make worship services political rallies. I understand that there are dangers to mixing politics and religion. At the same time, remember that ruthless pagan leadership was not a deterrent to the aforementioned examples of God-fearing individuals getting involved in government. Just because I don’t endorse political candidates from the pulpit, does not mean I should not work with them for a shared cause. I feel very comfortable with Adventists speaking to, working with and helping governments with issues that deal with the needs of the least of these.
You are probably familiar with the quotes against any type of political associations. Here are a couple that bring balance to the conversation. Read them and draw your own conclusions:
“A religion that leads men to place a low estimate upon human beings, whom Christ has esteemed of such value as to give Himself for them; a religion that would lead us to be careless of human needs, sufferings, or rights, is a spurious religion. In slighting the claims of the poor, the suffering, and the sinful, we are proving ourselves traitors to Christ. It is because men take upon themselves the name of Christ, while in life they deny His character, that Christianity has so little power in the world. The name of the Lord is blasphemed because of these things.”
“God’s Word prohibits policies that will enrich one class of persons through the oppression and suffering of another class. The person who takes advantage of someone’s misfortunes for monetary benefit, or who seeks a profit through another’s.”
“Have you thoughts that you dare not express, that you may one day stand upon the summit of intellectual greatness; that you may sit in deliberative and legislative councils, and help to enact laws for the nation? There is nothing wrong in these aspirations. You may every one of you make your mark. You should be content with no mean attainments. Aim high, and spare no pains to reach the standard.”
“The advocates of temperance fail to do their whole duty unless they exert their influence by precept and example—by voice and pen and vote— in favor of prohibition and total abstinence. We need not expect that God will work a miracle to bring about this reform, and thus remove the necessity for our exertion. We ourselves must grapple with this giant foe, our motto, No compromise and no cessation of our efforts till the victory is gained…”
I want to end the chapter just like I started it. Every day you wake up you must ask yourself two questions:
What breaks my heart? What am I going to do about it?
 Ellen G. White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing (Mountain View: Pacific Press, 1956), 137.
 Ellen G. White, A Call to Stand Apart (2002) (Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 2010), 93.
 Ellen G. White, Fundamentals of Christian Education Ellen G. White 1923 (Nashville: Southern Publishing Association, 1923), 82.
 Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, 1915 ed. (Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 2010), 387.