Church Planting and Social Justice

Hello bloggy world…so you may have noticed that Pete has been doing the bulk of the writing on this blog lately…I think I have a pretty amazing husband, right?  He loves to learn and study, and before he says anything he has usually spent a lot of time thinking about it.  I also love to learn and read, although in a different way…and I tend to speak before I think too much about what I say, although I’m working on that.  Haha…well, let’s just say I’m also great at apologizing…so, welcome to an “Emily” post.  I confess to you now…I have not overly researched this.  What follows is just what burns in my heart, so I cannot keep silent…

Did you know that missionaries argue?  Apparently there is a conflict between “church planting” and “social justice” missionaries, which to me seems to be a bit silly.  First of all, to even define “church planting” you’d have to read a ton of books, which, quite frankly, don’t interest me (Pete has read them, so does that count for me?  I mean, if he’s the head of the household and all it should…and those who know me just did a big ol’ LOL at that!)…because all these different people have different ideas about what it even means to plant a church.  Then there is “social justice,” which, honestly, might need a new name, because for whatever reason if you care about that these days you’re not into church and theology…I don’t think you’d have to look very far to debunk that idea…finding someone who digs so-called “social justice” AND church and theology is possible.  In the interest of full disclosure…I actually do read “social justice” books from beginning to end…about the only kind of non-fiction book that I read cover to cover…but let me get to the point…

When we drive from our house in Guadalajara to an outlying neighborhood called Tonala, we pass neighborhoods where poverty is built on top of poverty…

Every week I look in the faces of children asking for food or money or selling trinkets on the streets…

Moms with children on their backs stop by my house asking for old clothes…

A woman blind from cataracts sings in the streets for money…

A man with one arm asks every day to dust our car at the intersection where Pete goes to school…

I could go on, but the point is this…some people are telling me I’ll get used to it…that I won’t “see” it anymore.  I cry just thinking that something like that could happen.  When I look, when I pray, when I cry out to God asking that He extend His hand and that these I see in front of me and so many more I don’t see would know that God sees them and that He yearns to cry out to them, “Live! I have come that you may have life and have it to the full” (Jn 10:10), when I do those things, God does this for me…he makes the following words burn in my heart to the point that I CANNOT look away.  I am compelled to act, to learn, to love, and to work for whatever renewal Jesus wants me to offer in the now moments of this life while at.the.same.time sharing the reality of the kingdom yet to come for those who believe in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.  If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you. [That sentence especially strikes me as I look at moms trying their best to care for their kids.] Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. ” (Luke 6:29-31, 36)

“Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions and give to the poor.  Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:32-34)

“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.  Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:13-14)

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)

“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.  Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.” (Ezekiel 17:49-50)

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22

It seems to me that Jesus should be our example in church planting…and he didn’t just “evangelize” in one way, right?  I mean, he did lots of stuff besides just leading Torah studies in the temple…so what I’m saying is this…all those verses (and so many more…) BURN IN ME when I think about what I want to learn and do in Mexico.  In my opinion, activities like starting a school for under-served kids or working with abused women or counseling drug-addicted teens have an important place on a church planting team; all alongside friendship evangelism and in-home Bible studies.  What I think would be COOL is if we had teams composed of people whose hearts burn like mine, but also people whose hearts burn to teach theology, to ensure that a Sunday morning corporate worship time is honoring to God and beneficial for the body, to disciple new converts, etc., etc.  We are, after all, called the body of Christ…”so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.  If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Rom 12:5-8)

To have a church planting team or a church without “social justice” is, in my opinion, short-sighted, just as “social justice” acts without anchors to a local body of believers is also short-sighted!  We need each other.  Dear friend who likes to read Romans and 1 Timothy once a month…I need you.  I LOVE that you love theology and church structure, because, quite frankly, those areas are a struggle for me.  BUT…you need me, too.  We need to work together, as the body of Christ.  We need to be on teams together, to fill in holes we both have, to have great discussions in meetings and then pray and forgive when we annoy each other, to seek God’s will together, to free each other up to work in our areas of gifting FOR THE GLORY OF GOD and for the growth and edification of His body, the Church.  Diversity in a church body has to start with diversity on the church (planting) leadership team.  I think traditional methods of church planting are a GREAT fit with people who want to do “social justice”…we just have to be flexible, humble, willing to work together and think outside the box of our perspective “camps”, willing to recognize the gifts each of us bring to the table, and willing to live in between the tension between the two.

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Categories: Church, Mission, Unity, Vision | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Church Planting and Social Justice

  1. amen sister! I love when you give voice to the cry and the yearning in my own heart. This indeed is the body of Christ. I am so jealous Fred gets to see you this week!

  2. Karlene

    Amen and Amen!!!!! My heart burns just like yours! I am so looking forward to getting to meet and maybe even serve alonside you someday!! May God continue to richly bless you as He uses you in Mexico and fulfills His plan for your life!

  3. where’s the “like” button 🙂

  4. Yes, yes, yes!

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