Integral part of the community
The church, by its very nature, is an integral part of the local community. It is made up of people from that community and is well equipped to understand and contribute to the welfare of the community.
In this respect, also, it usually differs from the secular agency, although there are, of course, secular charities that do exist within and for the local community.
Major development activity often requires external intervention and there are many NGOs who specialise in bringing some particular skill and benefit to a community. However, by their nature they tend to engage in the community only for as long as their services are needed, and then they move to bring benefit elsewhere.
Because the church is an integral part of the local community they do not ‘go away’ when a particular problem is solved. They are there to continue bringing blessing and support, as well as to ensure that there is on-going ‘maintenance’ of whatever activity has been initiated, perhaps a school or clinic.
When God created the universe and all that is in it we read that he repeatedly looked at His handiwork and saw that ‘it was good’ (Gen 1:9, 12, 18 etc). After making man in His own image he saw everything He had created and declared that ‘it was very good’ (Gen 1:31).
So often the church is seen as ‘second best’ in the eyes of the world. We only have to watch programmes on television which refer to the church and see how the world views us. That should not be! If God has made us to be creative in His image, and if he can declare that what He made was good or very good, so should that be our ambition. As I have said elsewhere, ‘good practice’ is ‘God’s practice’.
The church should set the standard
So in the area of development we, not the world, should be setting the standard. I rejoice when people see what we are doing in the church and come to learn! May that be increasingly our experience.
Next time I will begin to share some examples of churches around the world who are doing just that – bringing a standard of excellence that is exemplary.