From Bad to Worse to Catastrophic? (VII)

A world-transforming gospel is not one that offers a religious way of life whose visible positive effects are strictly confined to family and church-hearth and home-because people demand more from a world-and-life view than the promise of a safe place of temporary retreat when the work day or work week is done. What people insist upon is a system for their life’s work that really does work. What they demand, in short, is a system for dominion.

We Christians have got some time. Time for what? To get our act together, to prepare for what is coming.

The answer for what’s coming financially doesn’t lie in heading for the hills. What’s really needed, is responsible people who will be around and be prepared to take up the load, when things go really pear-shaped. But taking up the load requires preparation, and initially this is preparation of heart and mind.

It is a fact that “power flows to those that take responsibility.” People want to help others. That’s good. But what we must do, is understand what God requires of us, what kind of help people really need, and how to conserve our limited resources so that they are used wisely.

When people are in crisis, the first people they should be calling on is their family. Yes, the church has a measure of responsibility, but the family has always been the basic institution for welfare in society, and it is very personal.

The Bible says, “…while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal.6:10). So, we have a Bible-taught priority: God’s people come first, and then others.

Even among God’s people, there are requirements. “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either” (II Thess.3:10). When there is something available for nothing, it often won’t be there for long, because a long line of people will come for it. It is widows, orphans, the fatherless and aliens who we are firstly responsible to care for, and even widows themselves are to be subject to some restrictions (see I Tim.5.3-16).

When there are resources available in a crisis, lots of unprepared people want to receive handouts. We have to be prepared to say “No” to some. Why? Because if we don’t, those who should be really entitled to receive, will miss out.

Saying “No” for some people is something they find hard. They feel guilty, thinking, “I could never do that.” This is why mental preparation is essential for a crisis, so that people are able to face up to these kinds of personal crises, having faced them already, beforehand. And if they can’t deal with that, they are in the wrong place and will be subject to abuse.

When needy people in the community figure out in a crisis, that resources are available for church people, they will sometimes do what people have done since the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:3-5). They say in effect, “We’re in need. We’re one of your lot. You have to help us.” This should remind us that it is important to have Church Rolls, so that all sorts of people do not turn up making the grandest claims of church membership, we believe them, and open up the storehouse.

The storehouse will soon be empty, if we aren’t smart.

There is much more. A local Food-Bank (set up like a massive warehouse) is about 30 km away from where I live in Brisbane, and it is accessed by a number of community organizations, which make arrangements and come with their trucks to take away loads of food (room temperature, refrigerated and frozen), daily. Some of the food is simply excess, such as day-old bread, along with fruit and vegetables. Other food is nearing its Use-By date, and needs to be distributed fairly quickly or be disposed of.

Some food is given away, while other food has a price attached (perhaps half or less, than retail).

Community groups need a truck, possibly a fork-lift, shelving for storage of room temperature food, along with refrigerators and freezers, and the space for some kind of shop. Some churches could run a truck between themselves: each benefiting, each contributing.

Trucks need a driver, fuel and maintenance. Refrigerators and freezers draw power. All of this takes planning, forethought and lots of money, both for initial purchase and for ongoing costs. It also requires the establishment of procedures.
What do we charge?
Who do we charge?
On what basis?
Do we employ people? How much do they get paid? Why?
Do we want to make a profit? (Is it even possible to make a profit?)
Do we accept donations?
What is the goal of all this work we are going to do?
Is it just good PR for the church, or is there more?
How do we publicise this?
If people have no money, do we let them have anything?
What do we do with those that say they have no money, and may be good at playing the sympathy card? (“My children haven’t eaten for 2 days.”)
What if people have no money, but are willing to help and work?
Should staff members be left in the shop alone? Why not?

I’m sure there are more issues to deal with, along with this one:

When an institution is beginning something new and potentially exciting, a lot of enthusiasm is generated. People think, “This is great! We’re ministering into the community. God is using us. This has great potential.”

But three years later, some of the enthusiasm has waned. The costs keep coming. There’ve been some disappointments, perhaps some sad things happen. Then there are some people saying, “Is this really worth it? It’s costing so much! Where are the benefits?”

It is good to consider this, well before the starting date. Jesus spoke of the importance of “counting the costs” of a plan before starting (Luke 14:28-30). Without this, any plan will be liable to fail.

In the likely event of great international financial hardship in the future, the church will have some significant opportunities to minister to people. These should be preceded by a careful study of what we should be doing, and how we do it, according to the scriptures.

This will require careful thought and planning, along with consideration of what we want to achieve. These will not be without cost, along with possible benefits.

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