An Excerpt from Strategic Compassion
by Barry Slauenwhite
When Jesus walked among us, He had the option of establishing His own government on earth, and He declined. He could have started a business to do social good, but He didn’t. Instead, He established the Church and promised that “the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). The Church, expressed in local disciple-making communities, is commissioned by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit to advance the kingdom of God on earth. And that advance includes the eradication of the evil of extreme poverty. No other organization was founded by Christ or carries the promise of victory against the forces of hell.
The Church is more than an institution; it is us. We are a collection of individuals who form the global Church. And we as the Church are commissioned to join people, wherever they live, in their journeys toward Christ, through our acts of love and kindness, and through the sharing of the good news. This is especially true with people in need. Jesus wants us to walk alongside those who are suffering, to care for their temporal needs while telling them the good news of His love for them.
Throughout history, the Church has been on the front lines of serving the most vulnerable people: the sick, the impoverished, the widow, the orphan. In fact, the Church has been and remains the single largest institution in the world engaged in helping the most vulnerable people throughout the world. Today, churches around the world are instruments of change, doing what governments could never do.
Because of their global presence, churches have an effect that is unparalleled by any other organization. The Church is the only organization with hundreds of millions of members and the capacity to mobilize hundreds of millions of volunteers who are transformed by the good news of Jesus. These volunteers, aligned by one Spirit and one shared hope, draw on immeasurable riches to achieve what cannot be done by individuals alone (Todd, 2011).
But presence is about more than numbers. Presence must also be strategic in location. Churches exist in exactly the right locations to serve people in need. In the slums, in the villages and in the city centres, the Church is present everywhere. The Church is not simply there as a physical building; its members are integrated into the community, being both salt and light to those around them (Matthew 5:13-16). The Church is woven into the fabric of local society as it has been since its earliest days (Todd, 2011).
In Compassion’s calling to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name, we have determined that this approach must be nonnegotiable: Our work is done exclusively in partnership with the local church. Working with local churches is more than a strategy. We believe there really is no other choice. The Church is God’s one and only plan for redeeming the world. There is no “Plan B.”