By Bob Simpson, BCM/D Associate Executive Director, Editor of BaptistLIFE
This past month I have had the opportunity to volunteer a couple of times for a non-profit community development organization that is making a real impact in the inner city of Baltimore.
I’m telling you this because I want you to know what a valuable experience it was for me. Going in I knew that it was the right thing to do. To be able to give back in a tangible way is so rewarding. My wife, Lorraine, and I also help support this organization financially. But giving of one’s money and giving of one’s time and talents is two very different things.
One morning I was able to help some young men develop their resumes. As a trained marketer, this is something that comes second nature to me. But to two young men in the poorest neighborhood in the state of Maryland, it was crisis of great complexity. To even get a chance at the few and low-paying jobs that are out there for them, they needed to at least have a current and organized resume to present to prospective employers.
I realize that this is only a focus group of one. But I suspect that if we all did our part to help the poor, the homeless, the hungry or the disenfranchised, the sum total would be an incredible impact.
I know this is what our Lord was suggesting to us all in Matthew 25 where He said, “When you did it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (Matt. 25:40 NLT)
I’m not sure why churches and individual believers are not more widely known for the high level of volunteerism among those “hungry, thirsty, lonely, naked, sick and imprisoned” that are everywhere around us. There are those, of course, who are doing much.
But I am amazed at how many others within our Christian, and, yes, our Baptist community, who seem to be content to let others do it. There even seems to be a confidence that evangelism always trumps social needs. After all, if we save their soul, isn’t that the most important thing?
Today as I write this, I recall reading in the Washington Post this morning about the death at age 93 of former Defense Secretary, Robert McNamara. He came to public notice when President Kennedy tapped him for service at the Pentagon. He is widely praised for helping the President navigate the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1963.
However, this and all of his other positive contributions were eclipsed by his influencing America’s ramp up of the Vietnam War also as Defense Secretary for President Johnson. In his retirement, he wrote in his memoirs of his regret and shame for the escalation of that war. He was so convinced at the time that he was right. But in later life, he showed a desire to expiate the Vietnam debacle. He admitted he had been wrong on Vietnam.
Back to the question: Evangelism vs. Social Gospel? My experience this month volunteering has made me re-think the answer to that question.
If we meet the basic needs of hurting people, it will increase exponentially the opportunities to share the Gospel. Sometimes when we feel most confident, we should consider the possibility that we could be wrong.
As the singing group ‘Casting Crowns’ so eloquently sings:
“But if we are the body
Why aren’t His arms reaching?
Why aren’t His hands healing?
Why aren’t His words teaching?
Why aren’t His feet going?”
If you are interested in giving of your resources (time/talents/dollars), I urge you to do so. I further urge you to consider the one I mentioned above by calling Becky at (410) 522-0044.