Now, don’t get me wrong, there are organizations out there that take the tasks of discipleship very seriously and truly serve with Christlike spirits. Grassroots efforts like Fields of Hope are addressing the practical problem of hunger by giving the hungry a way to feed themselves, and St. Vincent de Paul has been extraordinary at setting up soup kitchens and shelters across the nation. Nevertheless, in a country as wealthy as America that many regard as a Christian nation, how it is possible that there “are said to be 38 million hungry people in America and 14 million of them are children?” Is the hunger of only 10% of the population an acceptable ratio for a country that makes such radical claims of abundance, justice, equality, life, liberty, compassion, and trust in God?
Beyond the call to feed the hungry, there are also organizations that address the other aspects of the teachings of Jesus. Art Hallett, the man who led my youth group worship services, has started a prison ministry that has spread throughout the country, touching the lives of thousands of prisoners. Yet even that ministry is largely devoted to giving prisoners the assurance of eternal salvation and a celestial life after death through the Evangelism Explosion program. Again, not that it’s a bad thing because their coming into a belief system based on the foundation of love is assuredly better than the other training they’ll get in prison. Nevertheless, it seems that the endgame is the same as it is with most contemporary Christian ministries, to convert new believers and disciple them in the way to convert others.
Again, I understand the practice of evangelism and its importance not only in keeping the church stocked with new members, but also offering a knowledgable assurance of eternal salvation. However, the practice of evangelism was only one aspect of the ministry of Jesus or the ministry He called his disciples to. Nevertheless, it seems that the contemporary Church has gotten largely stuck on this one aspect and deferred the less flamboyant, yet practically necessary missions for the one where they get to hear themselves talk.
I find it interesting that in my community, one of the most actively engaged charities we have regarding hunger is the All Faiths Food Bank, an organization that has transcended the various belief systems of those involved and simply seeks to serve in the best way they know how despite their differences. Isn’t this the way the truly faithful serve? Isn’t it of greater importance to simply serve with humility without having the ulterior motive of conversion?
Steve McAllister is an actor, musician, accomplished author, filmmaker, and the man behind Your Daily Groove at Modern Hippie Mag. His most recent novel, The McAllister Code is available as an e-book at www.themcallistercode.com and will be available in paperback on 1/11/11. Find Steve on Twitter, @InkenSoul. Read his reviews and articles here.