Churches are not social welfare agencies.
Yes, feed the hungry. Yes, clothe the naked.
But those aren't job one. And any church that insists on making them job one will ultimately fail and fold.
The purpose of a church is to teach that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the world. The purpose of a church is to evangelize and call to repentance. The purpose of a church is to teach and encourage a morality based on the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Bible.
That's what churches are supposed to do.
They are supposed to save souls.
But fidelity to that core mission has faded in this politically correct day. The central assertion of Christianity -- that Jesus Christ offers the only hope of eternal salvation -- is shoved into a corner and hidden away by the pastors and prelates of today. Instead of preaching that Jesus saves, contemporary clergymen prefer going to ecumenical breakfasts and holding interfaith forums on understanding Islam or some such topic.
There has been so much watering down of Christianity that there's not really very much Christianity left to it.
Instead, there is a Marxist social activism that refers to Jesus only when convenient and never as an absolute. And right now, good old-fashioned Christian charity has been subverted into becoming nothing more than another stop on the welfare gravy train. And while Christian ministry has allowed one aspect of its mission to metasticize into a consuming cancer, another aspect -- the prime aspect -- has atrophied into oblivion.
So let me set the record straight: The purpose of Christian churches, of any denomination, is to preach Jesus Christ and him crucified. The main purpose is taking the saving grace of Jesus Christ to anyone and everyone. Feeding stomachs is good, but it is meaningless if you are not feeding souls. Christ sent his followers out not to save the body, but to save the soul -- to minister not just for now, but for the eternities.
And many American churches fail to do that. They offer handouts, but they do not offer salvation.
Some go to such extremes as to endanger their futures and consequently their future usefulness. Some large religious bodies sell off parishes and schools in the face of declining innercity attendance and use the proceeds to fund social welfare ministries that offer job training and soup kitchens but do not preach the gospel.
And that's too bad. Because such churches will ultimately bankrupt themselves, find that the poor are still poor and that they have not saved any souls. Put another way, they will have failed in every regard.
Ironically, in pursuing this gospel of social welfare, churches condemn the people they supposedly help.
While there is temporary relief of circumstance -- somebody gets some new clothes or a nice lunch -- there is no longterm uplifting of prospects, and there is no saving of souls. The principles of Christian living that lead to happiness here and hereafter are not taught and, consequently, people are not bettered.
And I believe that is a disservice, and an abandonement of Christian obligation.
Because the church isn't just a soup kitchen. When Jesus told the woman at the well that he had water that would make her never thirst again, he wasn't talking about physical thirst. He was talking about a more important need, the need to be reconciled with God through faith in Jesus Christ.
So many churches look at the financial poverty of innercity neighborhoods but refuse to recognize the moral poverty that underlies and even causes much of the difficulty. It's as if in the day of political correctness the Christian community has lost the power to identify and condemn evil in anything other than a political stunt to advance a leftist agenda. Lifestyles and personal actions are not condemned. Evil is not evil and, sadly, good is seldom good. There has been a perversion of purpose.
Even from a pragmatic standpoint, the welfare church has the cart before the horse. Its social ministries are ultimately self-limiting.
Here's how I mean.
As denominations dwindle and sell off parts of themselves, their ability in the future to provide social ministry is reduced and ultimately eliminated. I mean, you can only sell off a parochial school once. And once that heritage of sacrificial wealth is spent, it's gone.
If a program of evangelism were pushed, if the purpose of outreach was to convert people to Christianity, to enter the kingdom not as seekers of handouts but as equals and believers, churches would grow and lives would be improved. And a growing church would have greater means to do Christian charity. More importantly, a growing church could reach and save more people.
And, those people would -- when called upon to live a Christian life -- be less likely to make the poor choices that result in personal failure and poverty.
So much of poverty -- financial, social and religious -- is caused by making the wrong decision. So much of poverty is the unavoidable consequence of a poorly lived life. Things like out-of-wedlock birth, crime, drug addiction and violence are things avoided by those who live a Christian lifestyle. A lifestyle which churches seem too busy ladling up soup to be able to teach and demand.
Churches hold the keys to saving our worst neighborhoods and, ultimately, even our country.
But most churches today have no intent whatsoever to use those keys. Instead, they will continue so pursue a social welfare agenda that dooms them to spiritual irrelevence and ultimately extinction.
Churches are not social welfare agencies, and those that insist on trying to be social welfare agencies will end up failing.
Churches are meant to preach and convert and call -- preach Christ and him crucified, convert people to a Christ-centered life and call Christians to keeping the commandments of the Lord and the Bible.
That's not politically correct to say, especially in the realm of dying major religions, but it's true.
There is one way to heaven and that's through Jesus Christ, and a church that thinks there's something more important than that to say or do isn't much of a church.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2012