Mind Your Own Business!

The Body Builder

Captain Terry Camsey

By Captain Terry Camsey –

“The congregation I pastored for 14 years has programs to comfort the sick, the grieving, and the divorcing; to assist the unemployed and the overworked; to support singles and strengthen families; to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the homeless. All this is good, I’m sure, but sometimes I wonder if we’ve built an elaborate house of ministry on a very shaky foundation, on the curious assumption that if we dust off and patch up an individual’s self, that self will more readily be denied in order to follow Christ.” So suggests Donald W. McCullough in his book, “The Trivialization of God,” which Major Jerry Gaines kindly sent me recently.

I’m nowhere near finishing the book yet, but that comment leaped off the page at me, especially in light of the Army’s efforts to attain and maintain a “balanced” ministry–the “balance” presumably being between the social and spiritual dimensions of our ministry, rather than the time, money and energy devoted to each.

“With heart to God and hand to man,” we quote blithely and frequently. “Where there’s a need there’s The Salvation Army” is another phrase that rolls neatly off the tonguebut one that all too easily can become, “Where there’s a need…Where there’s every need…” Causing us to become–in some settings–a mile wide and one-eighth of an inch thick! No wonder we can get brittle through lack of resources to handle adequately all the needs presented to and accepted by us. And little wonder if there can be a disconnectedness between the spiritual and social ends of the continuum of ministry.

We are left in no doubt as to Booth’s priorities. A report in the East London Evangelist of June 1, 1869, stated, “From the earliest days of soup distribution, all cases were visited and followed up.” On his 81st birthday he also said, “All the social activity of the Army is the outcome of the spiritual life of its members. All social service must be based on the spiritual, or else it will amount to little in the end.”

I guess that if, at the point of delivery of our services, recipients have no idea that we are motivated by Christ and are not given opportunity to accept the “whole loaf,” then that function could be done by any humanitarian agency.

Is social work worth doing for its own sake? In so many words, Peter Drucker says, “Yes! but not by the church.” His argument is that unless such work is connected to our ultimate raison d’etre–that whosoever believeth on Christ should have eternal life–it’s none of our business. “That whosoever believeth on him should have clothes on their backs?” No!…food in their belly?” No!”…a roof over their head? No! “…eternal life” Yes!

The early Army certainly relied on what today would be described as “needs meeting” programs to gain a “foothold” in the lives of those coveted for Christ. Booth saw the imperative of meeting immediate needs (“show”) to earn the right to speak to people about their spiritual condition (“tell”). That philosophy is true for any church–or corps, for that matter–using needs-meeting to establish a bridgehead in order to build a bridge to Christ.

They tell me that on one of the early American coins was inscribed, “Mind our own business!”

That sounds like pretty good advice.

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