A few months ago, I was in a meeting with a group of pastors who lead churches in communities where there is much poverty and social injustice. One of the pastors shared, that for years he would tell people on a Sunday that God provides but on Monday he would see them with no food, no money and no hope. He said that since Orchard: Africa provided him with programs and tools, he not only tells people that God provides but that he now has something in his hands to show them that God provides.
That pastor’s testimony is a real life, modern day outworking of what the Bible calls faith and works, in the book of James.
14 My friends, what good is it to say you have faith, when you don’t do anything to show that you really do have faith? Can that kind of faith save you? 15 If you know someone who doesn’t have any clothes or food, 16 you shouldn’t just say, “I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat.” What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help? 17 Faith that doesn’t lead us to do good deeds is all alone and dead!
18 Suppose someone disagrees and says, “It is possible to have faith without doing kind deeds.” I would answer, “Prove that you have faith without doing kind deeds, and I will prove that I have faith by doing them.” (James 2:14-18)
I am convinced, that as a church leader, you wake up every day determined to love, serve and minister to the people in your community.
I am also convinced, that if your church is in a community where people are disadvantaged, you minister each day with a deep sense of awareness, that most of the people you serve will have needs that require a pastor to do more than preach and pray.
It is likely that every day, you are called on to minister to people with needs such as:
- Children who are undernourished or who have limited opportunities for education.
- People who are sick and dying without help or care.
- Teenagers and young adults infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.
- People who are desperately trying to find a job and who are living in hopelessness.
A huge part of the hopelessness such people feel, is the realization that typing “Amen” on a Facebook post isn’t going to solve their problem. Nor is another miracle crusade, or an anointed prophet exhorting them to do more spiritual warfare, or to send him more money as a seed offering.
James is very clear. “What good is it, if you do not do something to help?”The love and care we offer must be practical. If all we do is preach to them or pray for them, we may sound very spiritual, but our faith is alone and dead.
My challenge to you this year is, in the words of James, “My friends, what good is it to say you have faith, when you don’t do anything to show that you really do have faith?”
Or to put this another way, is your response going to be “automatic” or is your response going to be “intentional?”
The automatic response is what most leaders do, many times without even thinking about it, when they really don’t know what to do:-
- If people lack food or clothes – the automatic response is, “God is your provider, I will pray for his provision to be revealed in your life.” Of course there’s nothing wrong with that, we should always pray, but James challenges us to be intentional. An intentional response would be for you to pray for God to give you wisdom about ways in which you can do something practical to meet that need.
- If it’s children with limited opportunities for education, instead of just automatically praying that God would open doors for them, it might be better to be intentional about praying for God to raise up a volunteer in your church who can help you start a pre-school or an after school learning centre.
- It’s automatic to intercede in your prayer meetings for those who are hurting and broken. Instead, you can be intentional to teach your congregation that it’s normal Christian compassion to show love, to help and to care for the vulnerable and then recruit volunteers who will visit those who are lonely, sick or dying.
- Sit down and talk with teenagers and young adults infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. Instead of automatically rebuking them for behavior that may have caused their illness, show them that you care for and love them. Be intentional about starting a conversation listen and discover what their life circumstances are and help them find solutions.
Be intentional about praying this way until God shows up for you. Don’t shift the burden to those in need with automatic prayers. You may not be able to meet every need or solve every problem, but you will at least become known as a leader who, “Proves that you have faith by doing something practical to help those in need.”