Probably the greatest moral call upon the church is the call to minister to the world’s needs—whatever they are. This is a call first to morally respond to those we call brothers and sisters within the borders of the church and to quickly grow that moral responsiveness to those outside, even to those who are enemies of the church. The church is to pour itself out for the world’s need and in the process, God pours out Himself to the church. As Jesus said to His father, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).
There are at least 8 characteristics of this successful “sent out” “moral” ministry.
The church’s role is not to be like an ornament on a shelf, preserving its pristine beauty, staying detached from the world’s need. They are called to human need, which can be emotional, economic, educational, physical or social. This is a radical place where both morality and ministry grow as our understanding of what constitutes morality quickly changes as we bend toward human need. So the church’s identity is not formed in some idealized experience of monostic detachment from human need. It is formed at the junction of God’s desire to support human flourishing and Human need (Gunderson, 1997, p. 1).
Wanting to meet a need and meeting it are two vastly different realities. In the story of feeding the five thousand, Jesus brought to the disciplines attention the hunger of the people. The disciples recognized that but were overwhelmed at the prospect of meeting that need. The response. “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” (Mark 6:37, NIV). They may have been all they were carrying with them and draining those funds would leave none for other projects. A deep confrontation of the extreme needs of the world—should leave the church with the overwhelming reality that it will break the churches bank, the limits of their funds. This leads them to the view they need the power of God.
At the very juncture of world need and our frailty comes prayer. Prayer is the tool of communication whereby we lay before God our need and the needs of those we love, and receive His response. All need to pray and some need to make this their primary ministry, their intercessory calling—a labor of sacrifice, time, and devotion.
Oddly, when we call upon God, we anticipate some huge treasure trove of money will come. People will show up to help. Resources will flow. Sometimes these do. But the main thing is His presence.
Sitting with Jesus, at His feet, experiencing His presence, enjoying community is a great place to be but never to stay. Like fresh fruit left out all day, even good things grow rancid if they are not eaten and absorbed into life. So the main call of morality is to do the works of God. Perform your task.
Pay for it
Not everyone who sees the problem, knows the need for power, and hears the prayers of others or speaks a few concerns themselves and knows the presence of God, can perform the ministry they know is needed. Those can support the ministry with money. If you can’t do it, pray for it, if you can’t do it and don’t have the call to pray deeply for it, that at least fund it.
Sometimes you won’t be clued into very many of these P’s of ministry. Not to worry. One of the things you can do is to promote the ministry. Use your mouth to praise others for doing this ministry, praise God for providing prayer warriors and paying saints for making this happen.
Participate in it
Finally, and importantly, receive the ministry. If someone took time to make a potluck at your church, the least you can do is to show up and eat, even pig out. I am amazed at individuals who spend all their time ministering to others and won’t be ministered to themselves. Why do you think God moved on their heart to see YOUR need. Let them meet it. I was enjoying a wealthy saints hospitality one time and felt overwhelmed with gratitude that God, through this brother, had given me an enjoyable afternoon. I was enriched. It made me a better moral minister in my ministry.
Morality and ministry go together like peanut butter and jelly, because one prompts us with the heart of God for the human need and the other motivates us to meet that need, and in turn, that encounter draws a new and better understanding of righteousness- the moral gets expanded, enriched, and encountered in a way that leaves us with both the soberness and the joy of morality.
Meet a need, and get a need met…this is the vision of the moral church.
Gunderson, G. (1997). Deeply woven roots: Improving the quality of life in your community. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.