A friend posted a link on Facebook to a blog by Pastor Jeff Brinkman, a United Methodist pastor from Lee’s Summit, Missouri that summed up what I think a lot of people are feeling about tomorrow’s elections – no matter what your party, political philosophy, or involvement, one thing seems obvious – we MUST bring the federal budget under control. Whoever takes office has to be focused and serious about balancing the budget. The debt is serious, scary, and a burden to our grandchildren and beyond. It makes our country vulnerable to all sorts of foreign influences. It makes the nation weak.
I think the church needs to be ready for what this will mean, though. If the federal budget is really going to be balanced, some programs that have provided for the poor, the elderly, and the unemployed will have to be cut. There is no way around it. I would hope that those making the budget cuts will look at every possible area of waste and nonsense before they start taking food out of people’s mouths, but I think Christ’s church had better be ready to stand in a very big gap as the federal government comes to grips with its own limitations.
This could be a blessing, both to the church and to the poor. The federal government and all its programs is the most inefficient delivery system for helping the poor that can be imagined. Only a few pennies from every budgeted dollar actually reach the proposed targets. Most of the money is lost forever in redundant and inefficient bureaucracy and pork-barrel profit taking.
For years, the church has done the bare minimum for the poor in our own communities because, after all, the government was taking care of them. If the poor in the United States are not to suffer tremendously as the government gets back on solid fiscal ground, the church is going to have to step up. Big churches are going to have to do big things. Medium churches are going to have to stretch themselves, and small churches are going to need to band together and learn to offer resources more than they know they have.
Jesus told Peter that if we loved him, we would feed his sheep and care for his lambs. What an awesome opportunity to offer those who are hurting in our community, people trapped in poverty, people who have lost hope, people who are frightened for tomorrow, more than just a food card or a financial hand up. The church can do for the poor what the government never will – give them a REAL future with hope. The church can dish up the love of Christ, and the hope of the cross right along with the groceries and the rent money.
Right now, while the political winds are blowing change, and the energy is building behind fiscal responsibility in government, the church needs to be building up energy and purpose towards being the blessing we are called to be in a hurting world. We’ve spent way too long letting the government do the job Jesus assigned to his church, and letting them do it poorly. I pray that the body of Christ steps up and takes this responsibility to heart.