The Church That Serves

When we think of social services, hospitals and schools we may well think that the government came up with the idea. Yet They weren’t first to the game, not by some way.

By 580 AD the church had a system for circulating consumables to the poor: associated with each parish was a diaconium or office of the deacon. Monasteries also often served as comprehensive social service agencies, acting as hospitals, homes for the aged, orphanages, and travellers’ aid stations.

In fact, all major religions impacted its society in similar ways wherever it found itself on the globe. As societies developed, because of better health care and education provided by faith-filled believers, wider society took up the burden of this work, modernising it and in some way taking it to the next level.

The western world not developing this until the mid 19 century nearly 2000 years after the Christian church at least, had been serving the poor and providing care and help on a wide scale.

Today, the church might lament sometimes a lack of social services for the spiritual needs as well as social, emotional and physical but it doesn’t mean our engagement has lessened our impact. It has re-engaged with workplace chaplains, with churches collecting for charities giving generously of its time and money to ventures such as food banks, clothing banks, credit unions and so on and so forth.

We should learn from our historical mistakes, but feel proud of the legacy we have begun in the country for people. A legacy that means people are healthier and better educated because of people willing to serve and whose driving principles was Jesus teaching about the value of others, and in that people came to know christ.

We continue as the body of the church, to serve the needs as we find them. Let’s never forget our calling in that regard, that at the heart of who and what we are as church, is summed up beautifully in Matthew’s gospel chapter 25: 31-46

‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me’….

However lets also not forget the verses after in verse 45 of chapter 25:

‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’

A chilling warning to us ever forgetting the calling Jesus has for us, echoed more softly in the parable of the good samaritan!

As church communities let us be encouraged by what we have achieved, but not complacent to think it’s perfect or that we are done. I fear we think we don’t have a place in these areas anymore that somehow we are not welcome.

Perhaps that is true for some, but for most, I believe and I have witnessed myself that the door is very much open to the great great great great great… great grandparent of social work. We lend a hand and helping once more alongside others, so that together we help those who are, hungry, thirsty, shivering, sick and those in prison and many, many more.

As the church of Christ, our fruitfulness is because the action of the holy Spirit in our lives. Whose intention is always to bless others and through us remind them of a narrative. A narrative that is so vast and yet so personal of a God who knows, loves and longs for us to flourish whether they realise it’s his call or not.

Together as surgeons and doctors and nurses and social workers, teachers… we are the church and have more to say than just about the spiritual things of life. May the church live out its vibrant Godly focus in all its diversity and richness. Not focusing on one aspect of church ministry or life, but truly embodying diversity as we engage our world.

One passing question, what part of society will you or I look back on in the next 50 years or so and say, we enabled that to happen, not for our glory but God’s?

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