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Are You Answering the Wrong Questions?

Throughout the history of the church, or religion for that matter, we have been adept at solving the issues plaguing our communities. In the Old Testament, we read that Ruth harvested grain from the edge of Boaz’s field. It was the Hebrew custom for farmers to leave unharvested grain on the edges of their fields for the widows and orphans to collect. Later in the Bible, we learn in Acts 7 that the Apostles selected the first deacons to serve the widows and orphans of the Christian community. (Ironically, the first deacons were elected to serve others and not to meet to lord over the finances or terrorize pastors…just an observation!)
As you can see from these two examples, the church has a tradition of making an impact for the marginalized people in society. I am glad to report that the church is still answering the needs of its neighbors. But our culture has become increasingly more complex, even in the last half century. So, my concern is not If we are making an impact, but are we making the right impact. I mean are we answering the right questions to effectively solve the issues in our communities.
An example that we can consider is the issue of hunger in the community. The initial response is to open a food pantry at the church or even better in the community. Offering supplemental food absolutely can make an impact, but is it addressing the real problem facing the area. If we take time to research the problem, we might learn that the real issue is the community is in a “food desert” or an area without access to healthy food, fruits, and vegetables possibly due to lack of grocery stores, food co-ops, or farmer’s markets. Or, your research might indicate there is high unemployment or under-employment in the area caused by a lack of good paying jobs. Another issue that could be contributing to the hunger problem might be rampant drug abuse in the neighborhood. The reality is that the underlying problem is probably a combination of the factors we mentioned and maybe even other ones.
As you can see, the obvious problem of hunger in a neighborhood could have a much deeper and more serious issue that is causing people to have a deficiency of nutritious food. In most cases, the local church doesn’t have the financial or physical resources to solve the long-term problem alone. So, the real question becomes “are you willing, as the local church, to do whatever it takes to help your neighbors?” Can you partner with government agencies, businesses, whoever to share resources, expertise, and manpower to attack the real problems facing your community? The answer could be your food pantry, but what if it isn’t…

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