There is a lot of need out there. The words Harvey, Irma, Maria, earthquake all invoke
thoughts of tens of thousands of people who are hurting, homeless, without electricity or worse. There are countless stories of how the church has rallied their efforts to serve those who are hurting.
The Bible is full of passages that encourage us to serve those who are “the least of these” (Matt 25), to “sell all you have and give to the poor” (Luke 12:33), to “remember the poor” (Gal 2:10) and to “look out for the interests of others” (Phil 2). We are to “give to the needs of the saints and show hospitality” (Rom 12:13). So many churches have determined to make a difference in their communities, to serve those who are without clothes and shoes and food and basic human needs. In this way they are living out being the “salt and light” (Matt 5) of which Jesus speaks.
That is wonderful. It helps the Christian and the church as a whole think beyond themselves and their own needs (and perhaps their own infighting) to look out to others. It gives people a concrete way to live out their faith and a context within which to speak of their hope in Jesus. This is the same Jesus who also not only fed people but also served us who are sinful all the way to the cross. So many blessings abound when churches seek to do this: blessings for those who are recipients of the material goods and help and hopefully the Gospel, but also the church and its members who grow in grace and service in the name of Jesus.
But what about the rich? Doesn’t God love the rich?
It’s a good question. Does God love rich people? There is always the church member who says they understand helping the less fortunate but what about the rich people? Should we just overlook them in extending the kingdom of God?
First, what might be the concern that prompts the question? Sometimes the question is asked because our churches are often in financially more stable or even rich neighborhoods. Should we just ignore those who are so close? That is a fair point. It may also be that sometimes the member who is concerned about the rich may have a heart for their friends and co-workers and neighbors because they are a lot like them. That is a fair point too. There is empathy for those people who may be rich(er) too.
But let’s be careful that we are not self-deceived into favoring the rich over the poor because of some less than flattering reasons. They might not be like us. They might speak a different language, have a different culture, be of a different social class or color. Let’s be careful that we are not trying to avoid the poor because they have personal needs that would be demanding and require us to get involved with difficult circumstances. It is easy to avoid or shy away from that which is difficult and it is no wonder that some get criticized for just writing a check and not getting involved.
But that still doesn’t answer the question: What about the rich(er) people?
The answer is that people who are rich are often self sufficient. Jesus knew something about this when He said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matt 19:24). The Bible also says that the rich should not be proud, trust in God and not their riches and to be rich in good deeds (1 Tim 6).
So how can we reach rich people with the kingdom of God?
Just that. Exactly what Paul says to Timothy. The rich probably won’t be the first people to visit your church on Sunday morning, but they may want to “make a difference” in the community. We can encourage them to join us, as in joining the church as it seeks to help those in need in the community. Whether we as a church are doing that with our own programs or in partnership with other churches or community agencies, these activities are a perfect “onramp” for involving and touching the lives of rich(er) people. As they participate, either through their charitable giving or volunteer hours or both, they will meet and make friends with Christians. They will hopefully be influenced by the love, spirit, generosity and decency of church members. Along the way, through those contacts there will, by the grace of God, be opportunities to share the Gospel with them. There will be opportunities to invite them into deeper relationships or friendships, invite them to church and invite them to know Jesus.
So what about the rich? They will not be served by our benevolence ministries nor will they likely be attracted by our fellowship opportunities or other programs at church. But they may be interested in making a difference with the church as they volunteer or support our efforts. We would do well to then use these community based servant evangelism activities as a means by which we can also touch the lives of the well off with the love of Christ.
So as your church is involved in community based servant evangelism, ask:
- Who are the people of means who might want to support this effort either through a financial gift or volunteer hours? (think you boss, your neighbors or friends who are well off yet do not attend a church)
- Think of some intentional ways they can be informed, invited to support, participate or get involved in what you as a church are doing.
- Prepare a few key people who will welcome them and involve them so their experience can be positive including some significant conversation about Jesus and faith.
Scott Gress is called by Lutheran Counseling Services and partners with the FL-GA District of the Lutheran Church as an independent contractor. He specializes in Leadership Training, Consulting, Coaching and Coach Training. Contact Scott to continue the conversation or experience a free sample coaching session. 561-542-4472, firstname.lastname@example.org or scottgress.com
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