“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:35-38
I gathered with some other Fanning the Flame team members recently to listen to a CD lecture by Pastor Harry Reeder on the topic of mercy ministries.
Pastor Reeder called mercy ministries “the gateway to the kingdom of God” and the preeminent strategy for evangelism. Unfortunately in our churches we often regard such ministries as simply a drain on our resources. The greatest mission field is those who are in need of mercy. Most of our evangelism efforts center around gospel words, but some won’t listen to those words until they see our gospel deeds — deeds of love mercy and justice.
Here’s what will happen when we undertake mercy ministries:
- God will be glorified because the world will see a full picture of authentic Christianity
- People will be influenced by encountering authentic Christians
- Our own members will be encouraged and edified, becoming better disciples as they are incorporated into ministry
He did have a word of warning. It is important to ensure that the ministries undertaken are constructive. They should take time to teach that God has a purpose for pain and suffering and that He can take our brokenness and use it. Those who are suffering are not victims, and we must love them, not tolerate them, building on improving self respect rather than guilt and shame.
Here are some of the steps Pastor Reeder’s recommends:
- Make mercy and mercy ministry a part of the congregational culture
- Do Bible study and preaching that will lead members to develop a theology of mercy
- Equip people to be involved in mercy ministry as part of discipleship training
- Pray for a champion for this ministry
- Ask God to reveal a starting point for the ministry
- Make sure mercy ministry is gospel-driven, Christ-centered and has evangelism embedded in it
- Create a project/s that allow a low level of commitment and an ending date to encourage people to give it a try
- Make sure leaders take responsibility for the project
- Be strategic–impel and compel others to get involved
For me, the real eye opener is the idea that mercy ministry should be the 1ST strategy for evangelism. As spiritual gifts coordinator, I have discoved that we have few people with the gift of evangelism, but many with the gift of mercy. We can do this.