Ps 87:3 says ‘Glorious things are said of you, city of God.’ Often, we feel that the world has a very negative view of the church, and there is no doubt that the church is not perfect and has made many mistakes. Nonetheless, God has chosen to work through the church, His body, and many churches are involved in social action and community outreach as an outworking of their faith in God.
Churches are involved in helping the poor and needy, ministering to the addicted, caring for the disabled and elderly, looking after children and young people in so many different ways. The Cinnamon Trust has recently carried out an audit (which can be read here) of the work done by churches all over the UK; they found that over 9,000 paid staff and 139,600 volunteers worked in UK churches, helping almost 3 ½ million people and contributing over £220 million in paid and volunteer staff hours per year. Churches are involved in 4 main areas of social action:
- Enabling children and young people to flourish
- Supporting safer, stronger families
- Building safer, stronger communities
- Fighting poverty
The church is involved in helping so many people, through a variety of means: youth clubs, children’s work, Parent & Toddler groups, debt counselling services, food banks, pregnancy crisis centres, marriage and family counselling, coffee mornings and a whole range of other activities. Nonetheless, to be a church built on the foundation of Christ crucified and being built up by the Master Builder, we have to be involved in more than just social action. Paul says that Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to the church ‘to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.’ (Eph 4:12-13) To be a church that is growing in spiritual maturity and growing numerically, we have to see new birth and new life; there must be no division between the preaching of the gospel and the way we live this out in practical ways, ‘with God in the community, with God for the community.’ The Bible shows us the great joy there is in heaven (as well as on earth) when people are born again (see Luke 15:7, 10); our desire is to be a church founded on Christ and Christ crucified alone, and to see Him adding to our church daily those who are being saved.