A reader on niume.com responds to my recent post about Congress proposing a cut to the Meals on Wheels program:
“What will happen with medicaid? Are churches ready and able to serve the people who depend on this program as well? Half of all medicaid dollars go to help the elderly and disabled who need long-term care. If medicaid no longer is available to pay for these folks to stay in nursing homes, are churches and Christians going to step up to provide this care? If so, I suggest they start with the thousands upon thousands of disabled people who are waiting for medicaid waivers to become available in each state across our nation. In Kentucky alone, there are 7,000 people on the waiting list for the Michelle P. waiver, a medicaid waiver that serves individuals with developmental disabilities like autism. I keep hearing from the Christian community about these great opportunities for service, but in my mind I am thinking they don’t want to do it. If they did, they would already be doing it because unmet needs are tremendous.”
That critique is a bit stinging. Probably so stinging because it is so true.
We have gotten used to government having programs to fix problems. We forget that government fixing problems often makes them worse. We forget that government isn’t tasked with solving these problems–meeting these needs. We are.
Where to begin? First, we work to overcome the isolation that is so prevalent today.
Isolation compounds these problems.
We barely know our neighbors. So we often have no idea about their needs. This isolation became more profound when women reentered the job market back in the ’70s. I’m not ranting against feminism or working women–of whose ranks I am one.
It’s just a fact that we used to visit in each other’s homes more. And today, I don’t know the names of quite a few people who live on my own street.
Isolation makes it difficult to meet another’s need and, and for that matter, to make your own need known. How can you tell someone who doesn’t know your name that you are doing without?
So a good first step is to get to know our neighbors better.
A second step is at the church and community level. Our ministry focus today, largely, is us. Our sanctuaries are comfortable. And ministry feeds our spirits. Do our fed spirits reach out enough in our communities? I know I don’t.
The Church has vibrant ministries for the unborn and the adults associated with babies at risk. It’s time to expand our reach.
At a broader community level, my involvement with Christian schools has shown me a smattering of ministry to kids with the kinds of needs that this reader presents. We are making a difference to some.
But as the reader points out, many are truly left behind. Perhaps more churches can help such schools, many of which are struggling to keep the doors open. School choice and vouchers would help but seem like a wistful dream that’s been too long wished for.
A solution would be for churches to consider supporting such Christian schools as part of their mission focus.
Finally, some of the problem must fall at the feet of a government that doesn’t seem to be able to admit that it cannot do it all.
The recent health care debacle is proof enough. Health care seems to be in a death spiral. Costs continue to skyrocket. And as the reader presents, waiting lists abound.
My local community has the seed of a solution. One local doctor with an idea about how communities can partner with government to provide health care efficiently and effectively to those in need. I know he’s taken this idea to our state capital–Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
I honestly don’t know if the state has moved on the idea–or if current federal health care laws serve to enable this kind of program, provide stumbling blocks to it, or do not affect it at all.
Another possibility is the expansion of Christian cost-sharing programs. Such programs are limited to professing believers. But it might be possible for contributors to expand their reach as well.
Solutions do not just lie in practical application. They lie at the heart of the Church.
The question comes down to what is perhaps the great question for the Church in our days. The Church in the West is losing ground. Why?
Proposed answers to that question show the Church as others perceive us–or as they take little notice of us.
The thinkers among us offer two possibilities. First, according to Ed Stetzer, Christianity is simply sloughing off the dead weight of nominal believers.
Conversely, there is Rod Dreher’s view that we are simply bleeding to death, having failed to effectively pass the baton of faith to the next generation.
Both views take us to where Stetzer sums up: “Christianity is losing its home field advantage.”
Let’s take our reader as an example. She sees we are ineffective–or hypocritical. We say we want to help as needs scream for attention all around us. So she either stops engaging with a church or never engages at all. And why would she?
Dreher offers us a solution with The Benedict Option. In a nutshell, when we concentrate on teaching the deep truths of our faith rather than superficialities, that effort will, for example, lead us back to the early saints who risked their own lives caring for plague victims.
Evangelism, he says, happens when we show “love to others through building and sustaining genuine friendships and through the example of service to the poor, the weak, and the hungry” (119, emphasis mine).
Once we begin, more ministry will follow. It cannot help but do so.
Because that is what it is to be the Church.
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