Monday, May 14, 2012

Sharing Hope is Our Mission

We live in the world where it is hard to have hope!  Much of the world today has given up hope.  Many people live with a type of cynicism, discouragement, and hopelessness that robs them the joys of life.  Many have never really known hope.  For some all they have known is poverty, war, racism, and disease.  Where is their hope?  Others have lost or given up the hope they once knew because of frustration, failures, and their seeming inability to change their world.  They no longer believe things can change.

Even much of the church today struggles to live with the passion and vitality of the Christian Hope.  Years of conflict and decline on the part of many of our churches have robbed many of their passion and hope.  We find ourselves struggling so hard to encourage believers that we find no energy to share our hope with a hopeless world.  Churchnet is beginning the third year of a five-year emphasis called Share Hope.  The goal of the Share Hope five-year emphasis is to encourage, equip and assist churches as they mobilize their members to share the hope they have found in Christ. Our goal is help churches share hope through three specific strategies. 

The first strategy is Relational Evangelism.  Relational evangelism focuses on equipping and encouraging Christians to share their faith with friends and neighbors.  It is simply the process of building genuine friendships with people who do not know Christ and sharing how Christ has changed our lives.  The problem for many Christians is the longer they are members of our churches the fewer significant relationships they have with people who are not Christians.  They accused Jesus of being a friend of sinners.  What a wonderful thing it would be to say of a congregation today…these people are friends of sinners.

The second strategy is Congregational Ministry.  Congregational ministry is defined as serving and meeting the needs of individuals and families in their communities.  If you community is like the one where I live the needs probably seem overwhelming. The economic conditions of the past few years have left many individual and families struggling.  Our church’s benevolence ministry never seems to have the resources to respond to the needs.  There are people who need help with the basic life necessities of food, shelter, transportation, and medical care.  Sometimes the needs go well beyond these basics to emotional and relational problems.  I am reminded of the often quoted phrase, people will not care about our message unless they know we care about them.  Our challenge today is to involve our entire congregations in ministry that will touch lives.

The third strategy is Community Advocacy.  Community advocacy is speaking and acting on behalf of the poor and marginalized in their communities.  My experience of our Baptist tradition is that we are much better ministering to those in need than we are in working on the systemic problems in our communities.  We may respond to the hungry by feeding the poor, but we seldom get involved in working on the systems that keep people trapped in poverty.  Maybe we could accept the prophetic role which calls us to speak and act for justice in our communities. 

The Christian life is all about “hope.”  One of the definitions of “hope” is a person or thing in which expectations are centered.  Jesus Christ is our Hope!  Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:3: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…  If we show up to share the gospel, minister to hurting people, and speak for those who have no voice, God will use us to give hope, save lives and change our world.  We would love to partner with your church as you seek to share hope in your community.  Sharing hope is our mission!

This article was written for this week's Churchnet page in Word&Way.

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