Let the Church Be the Church

“The Lord maintains the cause of the needy and executes justice for the poor. ” Psalm 140:12

Millions of sick, disabled and unemployed Americans, immigrants, and their children remain dependent on government assistance for survival. We have long maintained that many government programs, while meeting immediate needs, actually weaken families, destroy initiative, and trap people in poverty. The new welfare reform law ends many of these programs, offering the Church a significant opportunity to continue to demonstrate that there is a better way to help the poor.

As the Church, with God’s help, we should care for the poor in ways which go far beyond what government programs provide. We should offer a community of love and support which respects the dignity and accountability of each individual. We should give families the support and encouragement they need to stay together. We should promote both the individual responsibility and community care which are vital to the restoration of the broken human spirit. Through ministries of evangelism, discipleship, mercy and justice, we should serve the poor, strengthen families and transform our communities.

The short-term impact of reductions in government programs of food, health care, and income assistance will likely be an increase in hunger and hopelessness in many of our communities. We challenge the Christian community to commit itself to model the sacrificial love of Christ by increasing its financial giving and personal involvement with the poor.

We call on every church congregation in America to help at least one family or individual struggling with long-term unemployment to obtain productive, stable work. This may involve skills training, discipleship, and networking. We call on every Christian employer to hire and train persons who have been trapped in poverty. And we call on the Christian community to commit itself to renewed efforts to remove racism, prejudice, and other barriers to employment in the community and society. “The righteous know the rights of the poor, the wicked have no such understanding.” (Proverbs 29:7)

We call on government to engage in creative partnerships with churches and parachurch ministries which have proven ability to lift people out of poverty. We are encouraged by the “Charitable Choice” provision of the welfare reform legislation, something we have long promoted. It correctly provides that faith-based programs which provide drug and alcohol treatment, job search and similar services will be able to compete for government funding on an equal footing with programs which propose secular approaches.

We recognize that we are accountable to God for how we respond to the poor. “If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard.” (Proverbs 21:13) We claim the promise of Psalm 41: 1: “Happy are those who consider the poor; the Lord delivers them in the day of trouble.” We have heard the cry of the poor. We pledge to respond generously, creatively and justly.