Charity That Changes Lives, Part Two
By Jodie Nelson
Operation Blessing International
3. Passing on the passion. The only way to ensure that God's presence and blessing endures is to pass on the passionate love we have for Him to younger believers. We must demonstrate His love, tell of His wonders, show them His power and teach them His ways.
Caring counts. The adage, "They won't care what you know till they know that you care" is true.
I was involved in an inner-city ministry for seven years. Some of the group moved into the community, others came in several times a week. It took two years before the kids and adults who were coming to the church and programs finally trusted us.
Until then, all we said, however true, was only hearsay. But after we were tested and tried, they knew we really cared. Then what we said had an impact.
Sharing builds faith. Acknowledging God's work in everything directs the trust of those you help to God. Telling how He has guided, or better yet, is guiding you through tough situations encourages faith in younger believers.
Otherwise the "knight in shining armor" syndrome can hijack the most well-intentioned actions. You rescue someone from a despairing situation and suddenly find they depend on you to solve every problem. The first time you don't come through, all the work you've done can crash down. Consistent telling of the works of God builds faith, not fairy tales.
Expecting the supernatural. This ignites power. God loves to show off for those He loves. Give Him the chance.
So go ahead and pray for the sick, cast out demons and expect God to provide in miraculous ways. He has already said that is what He wants to do. He wants to prove His power and love so new believers will know through experience. Recently, I went with a medical team overseas. The simple medical care and medicines provided were truly transforming people's lives. But then a family carried in their paralyzed father.
No medicines or equipment we brought would cure his condition. So the team prayed --and the man walked out! The power of God was shown in a way no one could dispute.
Teaching God's ways. Teaching God's ways is different from laying out a bunch of religious rules. Yes, there are some absolutes -- no coveting, murder, adultery -- but the rest is learning God's character and becoming like Him.
Everyone's relationship with God is a little different. Teaching what is on God's heart and how to recognize His voice is the critical part. That allows everyone the joy of giving a unique response of love to Him -- in liberty not legalism.
While anyone of the above principles can result in a measure of success, radical transformation will only occur when they are inextricably linked together. Then the results are amazing.
Think about the early church -- there were no needy among them. Signs and wonders were common. There was meaningful fellowship and a true sense of community.
They had a holiness and presence of God that were profound. Unbelievers turned to them for help. They had great favor with everyone. People were getting saved daily (see Acts 2:42-47, p 4:32-5:16).
When we pray for revival, isn't that what we envision? When each person in the body of Christ does what he or she was created for, remarkable things happen.
Plan of Action
God has been preparing us for this exact moment in history. He has been training and refining the teachers, pastors, evangelists, prophets and apostles for kingdom building --preparing each to better serve and equip His army of believers for ministry (see Luke 4:18-19).
He has been reshaping the way ministry is done. Business leaders are re- engaging in compassion outreach. The government once again recognizes the importance of faith-based social prorams. Churches have renewed interest in reaching their cities.
Racial reconciliation has opened doors for cooperation and unity. Spiritual mapping, prayer walking and other forms of spiritual warfare have brought better understanding of our cities so the problems can be addressed strategically.
God has also caused a resurgence of ministries that meet basic human needs as well as work to prevent poverty. Local feeding programs, food pantries, shelters, vocational training and rehabilitation programs have sprung up nationwide. At the same time, God has equipped national compassion ministries to gather funding that helps local church-outreach programs.
The body of Christ is connecting in cities all across the nation, often through outreach events such as Jesus Day, massive food distribution and ministry fairs such as Operation Blessing's Supper Bowl, King of the Beach community work projects or citywide prayer rallies such as Houston's 40 Days at Prayer Mountain. These relationships are crucial for the church to have an influential role in responding to disasters such as the flooding in Houston or the attacks on New York's Twin Towers.
Many great things are happening, and a lot of needs are being met, though in a disjointed sort of way. But true unity-creating a continuum of care and discipleship is still needed for the full blessing of God to be poured out on His church.
Real unity doesn't mean uniformity. Each church and person has a unique redemptive purpose to fulfill. But caring for the poor must be part of the life of every believer and church, so much so that it affects the way they live and operate. The indicator of the obedience of and blessing on God's people is the lack of needy among them.
That takes more than joint worship services or periodic food distributions. It takes laying down separate agendas for kingdom purposes. It requires knowing what other churches are doing and working together to resolve challenges that are too big or complex for any group or segment to handle alone. It takes equipping and releasing believers into their callings, no matter where it leads them.
Believers want something more significant in their lives than the latest episode of Survivor. But many of the brightest and best are not called to teach Sunday school, be a part of the worship team or even lead a home group, as essential as those all are.
They are called to other "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 full- ness of Christ" (Eph. 4:12-13, NIV). But these works need to be unified, comprehensive, strategic and covered in prayer.
So, where do you get started?
1. Pray. Start with strategic prayer. Lay the groundwork for future activity and cover those already at work.
2. Train. Equip believers for service. Use those with the fivefold equipping gifts to prepare others for works of service.
3. Survey. Examine the needs around you, in other churches and in your city.
4. Search. Research what help is already available (food pantries, emergency and fuel-assistance funds, job-training services).
5. Connect. Join with other churches and agencies to create a network for referrals, need verification and long-term care.
6. Fill. Fill in the gaps. Don't compete with other ministries when it isn't necessary; there are plenty of needs to be met.
7. Prioritize. Give priority to meeting the needs of fellow believers.
8. Assemble. Minister together; that is where strength, joy and refreshing come from.
9. Celebrate. Celebrating successes testifies to thc power of God and the truth of (His promises.
10. Love. Let everything be motivated by love (see 1 Cor. 13:3).
Needs are everywhere. With recent events we can only expect them to increase. In the midst of that, God wants a kingdom where there are no needy.
We must all help meet the needs of other believers, even those in other congregations and denominations. Then God will come in with blessing so there is an overflow. He will transform the church, making it a living testimony of God's redemptive power to the lost. Through that many more will be saved.
Read part one of Charity That Changes Lives.
Send Jodie your e-mail comments at Operation.Blessing@ob.org.
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Jodie Nelson is director of outreach for Operation Blessing International.
This article was first published in Ministries Today Magazine. Used with permission.
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