Sermon:  A Benevolent Church

(6 of 8 in "Rubber Meets the Road" which is a follow up of "Your Kingdom Come Series")

Summary:  Benevolence is a social ministry that is a part of the church's overall 
ministry of shalom that places priority on the brethren, but spills over its blessings 
to outsiders in need, thus bearing witness to the nearness of the Reign of God to 
the world.

Know:  Social ministries are an integral part of the overall ministry of the church as 
demonstrated in the ministry of Christ

Feel:  The desire to consider new ways and new ministries

Do:  Evaluate attitudes, beliefs and understanding about benevolent and social
 ministries.  Reflect on how Jesus modeled caring ministries and consider ways to 
incorporate ministries of compassion and social ministries as an integral part of the 
overall ministry of the church.

Text:  Luke 4:18

Scripture Reading:  Psalm 41:1

1.  My parents were new Christians and the whole family got sick
	a.  Dale and Esther Headley brought casserole dishes for dinner
	b.  When they left, my Dad was choked up a little
	c.  He commented on how they were really good people
	d.  That small act of compassion made a huge impact on his new faith
2.  This morning will look at the topic of benevolence
	a.  I want to expand the idea of benevolence
	b.  Most people this of benevolence as this:
		- Someone contacts the church and asks for money
		- We give them some sort of handout to meet their request
	c.  The word "benevolence" doesn't appear in the Bible
	d.  I am not sure the concept as we sometimes understand it does either
3.  What I want to talk about is larger than giving a handout
	a.  Jesus didn't just go around giving handouts to people
	b.  He brought something much more substantial
	c.  What he brought was much more holistic
	d.  What I am talking about is Christ centered social ministry
4.  Christ centered social Ministries are important.  Why?  Reasons:

I.  Integral part of the church's ministry of shalom
	A.  Shalom - A Hebrew word, usually rendered in English as "peace"
		1.  To often, we interpret peace to often in legal terms
			a.  Through atonement, we are at peace with God
			b.  Paul discusses this in Romans - Rom 5:1
			c.  But this is only one aspect of peace
		2.  The overall Biblical picture of peace is more comprehensive
	B.  Pictures of Shalom in scripture
		1.  (Isa 59:1-8) - They did not know the way of shalom v.8
			a. They were wicked and oppressive, God turned away from 
			b  (Isa 11:1-9) - Picture of the Kingdom of peace
				- Shoot of Jesse - a new kingship
				- Will punish the wicked and oppressive
				- Will judge the poor and afflicted righteously
				- Era of peace, no more violence, lion & lamb friends
			c.  Shalom involves equity, fairness, compassion
		2.  (Ezek 34:25-29) - God would make a covenant of peace
			a. Will be rains, crops, prosperity - wholeness
			b.  Similar picture of the New Jerusalem Rev 21-22
				- (22:2) - Leaves of tree for healing of the nations
			c.  Shalom involves healing wholeness
		3.  (Lk 4:18) - Jesus announced the Reign of God as Shalom
			a.  Jesus preached the Gospel to all, especially the poor and 
				- Brought an inner wholeness to those who responded
			b.  In Jesus' ministry, it was accompanied by healing, 
			     feeding, etc.
				- Jesus did not merely forgive the sins of hungry, 
				   lame, and blind people without addressing all of 
				   their needs
				- His holistic ministry engaged the WHOLE person 
				- No Greek dualism of physical and spiritual -- It was 
				   ALL spiritual
			c.  Jas 2 - James said our faith is useless if all we do is say, 
			     "be warmed and be filled" without addressing the need
				- True faith is accompanied by action
				- The actions of Christ involves ministries of wellness
		4.  Shalom involves total wellness
			a. There is not a sharp division between physical and 
			     spiritual needs
				- They are interrelated
				- To care for physical needs due to the compassion of 
				   Christ is inherently spiritual
				- Both body and soul are a single unit created by God, 
				   and both are objects of his renewal
			b.  God is concerned about the whole person
				- Physical needs - Food, clothing, housing, a job
				- Mental needs - Learning skills for living, financial 
				   planning, job skills, etc.
				- Social needs - Learning godly social skills, how to 
				   relate to other people, etc.
				- Emotional needs - A godly self image
				- Spiritual needs - The Gospel, coming to know God
			c.  Benevolence ministry is not just about giving handouts
				- That is often the cheapest most impersonal way
				- Even Israel did not give handouts, the poor had
				  to glean and harvest the edges of the fields Dt 24:19
				- In some cases, handouts do not help but enable
	C.  ILL:  Don & Wanda Bottoms are members at Duncanville in the Dallas 
		1.  That church gave out $30,000 worth of school supplies last year
		2.  Some other ministries the church is involved in:
			a.  Recovery ministries - a 12 step program
			b.  Community Action Response Team
			c.  Various Benevolence Ministries
		3.  This demonstrates a proactive stance on benevolence
			a.  They obviously have a well planned, purposeful ongoing 
			      benevolence effort in their congregation
			b.  It is a major ministry in their congregation
		4.  This follows the pattern of the early church
			a.  Benevolence was a major ministry in the first three 
			     centuries of the church
			b.  There are still churches in the world where this is true
				- Third world countries especially
				- Often the church is the only place to find food and 
				   keep from starving
	D.  Benevolence ministry is not optional
		1.  (Prov 28:27) - He that gives to the poor shall not lack, but he 
		      that hides his eyes shall have a curse
		2.  It is an indispensable part of the ministry of the church
		3.  It reflects the ministry of Christ
		4.  **A starving Christian should be an oxymoron…

II.  It takes care of family but overflows its blessing to outsiders
	A.  The vast majority of passages dealing with benevolence are aimed at 
		1.  (Dt 15:7-11) - Do not close your hand to your poor brother
			a.  Be generous in helping your poor brother
			b.  If you withhold from him, it will be a sin
			c.  If you give generously, the Lord will bless
		2.  (Matt 25:3f) - Feed, Clothe, Visit the least of these "brothers"
			a.  This is why there was a special collection for the famine 
			      struck brethren in Judea
			b.  Most of the passages dealing with giving are connected 
			      to this benevolent effort
		3.  Acts 6 - Feeding of the widows in the church was ongoing
			a.  Jas 1 - Pure and undefiled religion is to visit orphans and 
			     widows in their distress
				- They did not have Medicaid, meals on wheels, 
				   orphanages, children's homes, foster care system
				- The church filled that need
			b.  1 Tim 5:3f - Paul gives further instructions about the 
			      financial support of widows
				- It is for destitute widows who have no family & no 
				   prospects of re-marriage
				- IF they had family, they needed to take 
				- The implication is that the widow would minister to 
				   others (needed to have a track record of ministry)
		4.  Limitations on benevolence to brethren
			a.  Proverbs has a lot to say about the sluggard
				- Prov 20:4 - The sluggard does not plow of the 
				   autumn, so he begs during the harvest and has 
				- Prov 21:25 - The desire of the sluggard puts him to 
				   death, for he refuses to work
				- Prov 26:14 - As the door turns on its hinges, so does 
				   the sluggard on his bed
				- Not a pretty picture
			b.  (2 Thess 3:10-12) - No work, no food
				- Church is not to finance laziness
				- There is a difference between those who are poor 
				    due to laziness, and those who are truly poor
			c.  (Eph 4:28) - Do a good honest days work
				- So that you will be able to share with the needy
	B.  We are not limited to helping outsiders
		1.  Gal 6:10 - Do good to all, especially the household of faith
		2.  The blessing of the Reign of God spills over to outsiders
		3.  Family comes first - We minister to the body of Christ
	C.  ILL:  Family comes first, the rest spills over to everyone else
		1.  Churches of Christ disaster relief understands this
			a.  They attempt to target needy brethren first
			b.  They call churches to assess the needs of brethren and 
			      take care of it first
			c.  But the blessing spills out over to everyone else
		2.  Saw a news story about charitable giving in companies
			a.  Majority of giving is from lower-middle class 
			      professed Christians
			b.  Those who do not have faith tend to give very little in 
			c.  The blessing of these Christians is spilling over
				- They give regularly at the churches as well
				- They give to these in addition to that
	D.  Benevolence starts in house and moves outward
		1.  Family comes first - we care for our own
		2.  Christians are not alone & do not starve while a brother is well-
		3.  **This can make Christians stand out…

III.  Bears witness to the nearness of God's Reign
	A.  God's reign is about holistic shalom - prosperity, healing, joy
		1.  Rev 21-22 demonstrates this with the picture of the final 
		      consummation of the Reign of God
		2.  Tears will be wiped away, no more oppression or sickness
		3.  Plenty for everyone in the Reign of God
	B.  The consummation of God's reign is yet to come
		1.  The Reign is both here and not yet
		2.  Final consummation when the final trumpet sounds - Rev 11:15
		3.  Jesus indicated to John the Baptist's messengers that evidence 
		    of the reign of God involves ministries of compassion and healing
			a.  Not completely wiped out evil, sickness, oppression, 
			      hunger, etc.
			b.  But Jesus began an assault on all of these
			c.  Jn 20:21 -"As the Father has sent me, so also I send you"
				- He commissions us to carry on his assault
				- It happens through spiritual & social ministries
		4.  At the final trumpet comes the consummation of the Reign of   
		    God, and all evil, hunger, oppression, sickness will be obliterated
	C.  ILL:  Social ministry is one reason why the marginalized early church 
	      had such an impact
		1.  Some of what they did:
			a.  Devoted to ministering to the sick
			b.  Rescued babies left discarded parents in the open
			c.  Reached out to all classes of people and races
			d.  Distributed food to the hungry
			e.  Provided burial for the poor
		2.  Pagan emperor Julian recognized the impact, and tried to 
		      counter Christian charity by instituting pagan charity
			a.  It didn't work.  It didn't fit into pagan religious belief
			b.  He remarked -  “Atheism (i.e. Christian faith) has been 
			     specially advanced through the loving service rendered 
			     to strangers, and through care for the burial of the dead.  
			     It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, 
			    and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor 
			    but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain 
			    for the help we should render to them.”  
			c.  What a testimony to the benevolent God we serve!
	D.  When we engage in social ministries, we participate in God's reign
		1.  Maybe this is what it means to "reign with Christ"
			a.  It is not about a power grab, or lording it over them
			b.  Jesus came as a king who serves
			c.  If we participate in his reign, wouldn't we do the same?
		2.  When we are a Christ centered family that learn, shares and 
		     cares, we bear strong testimony to the Reign of God being in us
		3.  The strongest witness to the reign of God are ministries of 
		4.  This helps to open hearts to hear the message of good news

1.  God interested in making what has been broken by sin whole again(invitation)
2.  Remember benevolence is a social ministry that is indispensable
a.  Part of ministry of Shalom
	b.  Priority for brethren, but spills over its blessings to outsiders
	c.  Bears witness to the nearness of God's Reign
3.  Questions to consider:
	a.  How spiritual is worship without service and compassion?
	b.  What percentage of our ministry is social ministry?
	c.  How proactive are we in our benevolent and compassion ministries?
	d.  What attitudes and beliefs might we harbor that have been road blocks 
	      in caring ministries?
	e.  What are some specific steps we could take to develop a more Christ 
	     like ministry mosaic in our congregation?
	f.  How well do we know the people in our community and their needs?
	g.  How can Christ's model of ministry help guide us in discovering the 
	    hurts, needs, concerns, and worries of people we don't know?
	h.  What resources do we have that can contribute toward developing 
	     caring ministries?


Process Guidelines

During the summer season, beginning Sunday evening June 10th, the congregation 
will assemble at the building.  During this gathering we will outline our plan for the Summer.  
This first meeting is an introductory overview.

For the remaining eight weeks we will follow a pattern that works as follows:

Sunday Morning Sermon:  Introduce the topic for the week.

Sunday Evening:  Life Groups meet at the building but in separate rooms: 			
Discuss the topic for the evening
Develop ideas, recommendations and proposals
Tie them to scripture and align them with our goals and objectives.
Guidelines for Life Group discussion as it relates to the Topic 
	1.  What’s the purpose of…(Topic of the week)?
	2.  How should we accomplish this purpose?
	3.  What should we…
		a.  Keep doing?
		b.  Start doing that’s different?
		c.  Stop doing? 

Wednesday Evening:  Congregation meets to:
Hear each Life Group present the ideas, recommendations and proposals they developed 
the previous Sunday evening.
Thoughts will be organized and presented in the form of these questions:
	1.  What did we learn?
	2.  What surprised us?
	3.  What is Important?
	4.  What should we do?

Sunday Morning Bible Study Hour:  Congregation Meets to…
	Process the Topic for the previous week 
	Discussion Centered on three questions:
	1.  What happened?
	2.  What does it mean?
	3.  What will we do with it?