Christian service through compassion ministries has been a hallmark of Southern Baptist churches for decades. Following the example of Jesus and meeting physical needs is a mandate for all believers. Just as Jesus fed the hungry and healed the sick, his command to minister “to the least of these” is paramount.
Here are 5 things you may not know about Christian service and compassion ministries among Southern Baptists. Did you know:
• August is “Focus on Christian Service” month in the Southern Baptist Convention. Three Sundays during the month are dedicated for service and compassion ministries – Send Relief Sunday, Serve Sunday and Global Hunger Sunday.
Churches, associations and state Baptist conventions throughout the United States have been involved in a variety of compassionate ministries. Some of the most successful ministries of the International Mission Board in introducing people to Christ were through compassion ministries such as hospitals and schools.
• One of the compassion ministries is Churches are encouraged to fill backpacks on one Sunday (Send Relief Sunday) and to distribute them the following Sunday (Serve Sunday).
It may be more important to show Christ’s love in our culture more than any other time in history. Since our culture has distanced itself from God’s Word, it is important for churches to engage their communities by meeting needs and building bridges for sharing the gospel.
• Backpack ministries aren’t the only way churches can be involved in serving through compassion ministries. Other avenues of service could include serving migrant workers in your area, providing food to those in need in your community, providing needed resources (personal or household items) for refugee families, ministering to victims of human trafficking, literacy ministries such as ESL – “English as a Second Language,” medical and dental ministries, or local disaster relief response. These are only a few ministries in which a church could participate. One church in Fresno covers its community in love by providing diapers for needy families. This has led to building relationships as church members deliver diapers periodically throughout the year.
When churches go into their communities and meet visible needs it opens doors for members to build relationships and allows opportunities for spiritual conversations which can lead to sharing the Good News.
• Resources are available to help churches in this quest through Send Relief. One is entitled “How Can We Serve” and serves as an in-depth guide to discovering needs and opportunities. The downloadable publication covers topics such as “Finding Your Place,” “Identifying the Context of Your Community,” “Identifying the Needs of Your Community,” and “Listening and Learning from People in the Community.” Additionally, several ministry guides covering previously mentioned compassion ministries are available.
Bryant Wright, president of Send Relief, a compassion collaboration between the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board, said “When churches are able to meet tangible needs in their communities, so many doors open for them to start meeting spiritual needs. Church members build relationships with those they meet and can then share the gospel.”
He added, “Without displaying compassionate care for tangible needs, Wright said, the church may face an uphill battle when it comes to gospel proclamation.
“If they (community members) look at the church and sense that we’re uncaring toward physical needs, they may be less inclined to hear us when we talk of their spiritual need,” Wright said. “On the other hand, when they see the church living out ministries of compassion, they become more interested in hearing why we do what we do. It’s all about the gospel.”
• Prayer is the most effective tool Christians have for making any ministry a success. Begin asking the Lord to reveal what compassion ministry(ies) He has ordained for your church. As you pray, He will reveal the people and means by which He can accomplish His will. Don’t dismiss the power of prayer in achieving your goal of serving, ministering and sharing the gospel.
Terry Barone served as communications director for California Southern Baptist Convention for 30 years before retiring in December 2021. He now serves the state Convention as special projects coordinator. A graduate of Baylor University, Terry served as a Southern Baptist journalist for more than four decades. He and his wife, Linda, are members of Trinity Southern Baptist Church in Fresno.
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