When I Say “Name a Force for Good” What Pops into Your Head?

Mother Teresa?  The Gates Foundation?  Doctors Without Borders?  The Rebel Alliance?

The Presbyterian Church USA? (Not kidding about this one, but my hunch is that your first thought was not church-related.)

The Church doesn’t have a fabulous reputation even though people of faith joining together have displayed a power to be a force for good like no other organization.  Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh congregations throughout the United States have made a difference that has changed lives for the better.

But my context is the Church.  I believe that – as a follower of Jesus – we are called to transform the world for good in Jesus’ name.  The problem is that many congregations exist primarily for other reasons:

  • To be landlords for other organizations.
  • To be social clubs for weekly get-togethers.
  • To perpetuate an institution.
  • To promote certain individuals or pet projects.

These are Great Times for the Church if we happen to be focussed on transforming the world for good in the name of Jesus Christ.

But these are bleak times if our congregations are focussed primarily on targeting new members, getting rent from tenants, offering comfortable gatherings for friends, surviving as an institution survival or fending off grimaces from the church matriarch/patriarch. Those churches will continue to struggle.

Nevertheless – in spite of diminished church participation throughout the country – congregations are essential in serving the needs of the world.

Note that I’m talking about congregations.  Not individuals.

Why can’t we just “be good people” out there on our own – individually buying Tom’s Shoes and collecting unperishable items for homeless shelters?  We can certainly do these things.  But together we can do more.

This article – which is a must read – reminds us why collective efforts are essential if we are serious about Changing the World.  We have just witnessed in the past week through flooding, burning, shaking, and fleeing that there is much work to do to bring restoration and healing.  God uses even tragedies to teach us.

“Floods are invitations to recreate the world. That only happens successfully when strong individuals are willing to yoke themselves to collective institutions.”

My hope is that – as the world continues to struggle with disasters of every kind – we will recognize that we need faith communities:

  • To fuel ourselves to meet the realities of life (through worship)
  • To equip ourselves with tools for ministry (through education)
  • To pool resources for funding important projects (through financial stewarship)
  • To reach out into the world as a true Force for Good (through mission)

We have been blessed with immeasurable opportunities to serve our neighbors. We do it better collectively because there are more resources, more hands, more perspectives.  And subsequently there is more impact.

I imagine a time when I ask, “What pops into your head when I say ‘Name a Force for Good’?” and you say:  “The Church.”


Mosaic of (clockwise from top left) Mother Teresa, Melinda and Bill Gates, a team of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance volunteers, and Doctors Without Borders workers.

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