Churches: Meet needs of others with God’s strength
Christians owe a debt to God to live a Christlike life that glorifies Him, but according to Roger Willmore, president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention, Christians also owe a debt to their fellow man.
Fulfilling that obligation comes through meeting the needs of others, Willmore told the more than 100 pastors, directors of missions and laypeople attending the 40th annual Human Relations Conference, held April 21–23 at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega.
Sponsored by the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM), the conference was held to improve race relations through ministering to the “common concerns” that affect everyone regardless of race, education background or social status, according to Ronald Davis, an associate in the SBOM office of associational missions and church planting.
It addressed issues like church-sponsored literacy ministries and job placement and included presentations on the impact of domestic violence and the importance of churches meeting the needs of immigrants (see story, this page).
“As a Christian community, these things ought to be of concern for us all,” Davis said. “We ought to come together and address these issues as different ethnic groups and different people groups.”
But Willmore cautioned Christians against trying to meet the needs of others by relying only on their own strength. “We can’t do it by ourselves; we need Holy Spirit power,” said Willmore, pastor of Deerfoot Baptist Church, Trussville. “Let us not leave God out of the equation.”
Addressing one of those needs, Bobbie Wilson, literacy associate with the North American Mission Board, said it is a mistake to believe sponsoring literacy programs is not important for churches. Sharing the story of a company executive who never learned to read, she said churchgoers might be sitting next to someone who doesn’t know how to read the Bible or hymns.
“There is no reason for every association not to have literacy ministries,” said Wilson, who began her literacy work through Walker Baptist Association.
Davis added that many of the problems in communities are symptoms of other problems like illiteracy. Because people who are illiterate do not have the means to find a job, they often resort to drastic measures, which can impact others in a negative way.
Way to salvation
Pat Ingram, missions and ministry consultant for Alabama Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), noted that helping individuals find jobs is also a way of leading them to salvation. That’s where Christian Women’s and Men’s Job Corps, a ministry of national WMU, can come in. It not only helps individuals improve their lives but also emphasizes discipleship, requiring each participant to attend Bible study.
Ingram predicted there would be less need for government social services if churches did more to help those in their communities.
During a sermon April 22, John E. King Jr., networking and stewardship team leader with Birmingham Baptist Association, said Christians must not become weary in meeting the needs of everyone in their communities. “The work is important,” he said. “A lot of people don’t understand the importance of building relationships and the importance of reaching out to one another and building bridges.”
In order to avoid weariness, King said Christians have to know that God has called them to help others and remember that they cannot always make everyone happy.
“You can’t please everybody. You can’t be all things to all people,” he said. “You represent He who is the Messiah.”
During the closing session Alabama House Rep. James Fields Jr. of Cullman challenged the group “to get … off the housetop and onto the paths of service.
“Get on the path and God will meet us there,” he said.
Davis called the topics discussed at the conference “paramount issues.”
“These issues put us all in the foxhole, and we need to work together,” he said. “It’s detrimental for us not to work on these issues. It’s not the end when we leave here; it’s just the beginning.”
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This article is reprinted from the May 1, 2008, issue of The Alabama Baptist, the newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist State Convention.