Religious institutions should not ask the state to solve problems we have the capacity to address ourselves. Yet, in every city across this country there is a need that faith-based leaders talk about from the pulpit and then expect government to answer. In doing so we are shirking our responsibilities and failing our communities.
Abortion, poverty, addiction, poor education, and so on — the list of that which ails our communities is far too great, and the private sector faith-based efforts to address these problems in many cases is far too small. The unintended consequence is that churches have lost influence in the lives of the everyday citizens in the communities that surround them.
In conservative circles, outside of core responsibilities such as the national defense, we prefer small, restrained government. But we cannot shut our eyes and act as if the communities in which we live have all of their needs met. Nor can religious leaders close up shop at the end of our weekend worship events, believing if that is all we do, we’ve done our part to solve our neighbors’ problems because we addressed certain issues from behind a podium.
When we speak but do not act, the flock looks outside the church, to the next great institution in their lives, government, to solve their ills. But the state was never intended to be an agent of social problem solving, and it’s not very good at it.
Case-in-point, for decades, preachers have rallied congregants in opposition to state-sanctioned abortion. My father and I have both done so because we believe that abortion is immoral, and an act of murder in the first degree. It is vital that faith-based leaders who see abortion as I do continue to discuss it with their congregants. But we cannot pretend as if our job is done when the sermon ends.
Cornerstone Church and the partners who support Hagee Ministries recently broke ground on “The Sanctuary of Hope.” When complete, this will be a state-of-the-art facility that will meet the medical, educational, and spiritual needs of expectant mothers and their children. We will not throw an infant and his/her mother out on the street once the child is born. Rather, over the course of two years, mother and baby will receive comprehensive medical care, the young woman will obtain vocational training – in many cases leading to an Associate’s Degree – and throughout the experience she will also receive guidance and counseling from licensed professionals.
We are providing expectant mothers with a real choice. A life or death choice, the government-sanctioned alternative doesn’t provide these options, but rather a “quick and easy” procedure, and the “problem,” in this case an unborn child, is exterminated, with little thought given to the long-term, social, physical, economic, and spiritual impact the decision to abort creates.
Along the same lines as the abortion debate, we often here preachers motivating audiences to reach for more, believe for better, and expect the best – without much consideration given to the matters of personal responsibility and the importance of confronting the challenges one wishes to change.
There will always be those in every community who – for whatever reason – have found themselves destitute. People walk by and ignore them; the government has neither the resources nor the inclination to help them. And no amount of preaching will feed them or provide them shelter.
In 1996, a brave pastor and personal friend, Matthew Barnett, converted an old Los Angeles hospital into a refuge and safe haven that meets basic needs and provides life-changing ministry. In myriad ways, Barnett’s “Dream Center,” aids local individuals and families that have fallen on extremely hard times. The Dream Center is giving their neighbors a real chance, and setting an example for others to follow.
We must find a need and meet a need. This is the example set by the Author of our faith. We read in scripture that Jesus, “went about doing good…” The same should be said of all who follow Him and His teachings.
It is incumbent upon every believer to discuss the word of God with all who are interested. We should not stop trying to teach the value of personal responsibility or overturn Roe v. Wade. If the issue has taught us anything, it is that despite our best sermons, biggest rallies and marches, today there will be abortions, there will exist many with no home and no food, and yet more individuals will become ensnared by addiction every day.
Today, there are an untold number of social illness that need to be immediately addressed. If the Church is going to remain a source of real influence and an agent for change in the future, faith-based leaders must decide, today, that society’s social ills will be addressed by the church, not the state.
Written by Pastor Matt Hagee.