Paul Barreca is one of the co-founders of The Alliance for Biblical Integrity. He is the pastor of Faith Bible Church in Vineland, New Jersey.
What’s a Church to Do? A Word to Pastors.
By Paul Barreca
How should churches respond to the crisis in Haiti? No further reminders of the devastation are necessary. Anyone with internet or television access knows that the poorest nation in the western hemisphere is in the throes of incomprehensible human suffering.
As churches gather Sunday, every member will have been moved by the images and news from Haiti. They will want to know “how do Christians respond when there is a need so desperate as this?” Christians should be moved with the same compassion for the world that was demonstrated by Jesus. Only the most uncaring and detached would be able to simply ignore these needs. Although Pat Robertson also encouraged meeting the needs of the people, his commentary was not helpful when he said the earthquake was the result of a curse upon Haiti because of a pact with the devil. Rather than providing a biblical response with theological clarity, these kinds of remarks only serve to give the impression to many that born-again believers are callous and ignorant.
Bible-believing Christians are deeply concerned with sharing the gospel as Christ commanded. We understand the dangers of the social gospel which tends to confuse meeting physical needs with the biblical balance that necessarily includes meeting spiritual needs. We are committed to efforts that are comprehensive and gospel-centered. We need not allow the priority of presenting the gospel message interfere with the priority of Christian compassion. Churches that fail to respond to known crises in their communities or the world eventually lose their platform for sharing the gospel.
Here are three suggestions that offer God’s people an opportunity to respond with genuine Christian compassion.
1. PRAY: Spend time this Sunday in prayer for the people of Haiti. Corporate prayer is an important part of our worship. It also serves as a model that members can follow in their private prayer times.
2. GIVE: Encourage members to give through your local church. This strengthens the testimony behind these gifts and provides a positive way for believers to respond to the crisis. Designate these gifts to a Christian organization with a sound reputation to provide help in the name of Christ and with the accompanying message of salvation. ABI has links to two recommended ministries organizing disaster relief funds.
3. SEND: The Lord can use the stirring of our hearts as part of His call to missions. Encourage medical personnel to go now, with your church’s support. Discuss the possibility of a church work team to travel to Haiti later this year to help rebuild a hospital, church or mission. Right now, security, medical and basic human needs like clothing, food and shelter are the highest priorities. But construction and rebuilding will go on for years to come. If it is practically impossible to send someone now, then begin plans to send a team in the future. Haiti is just one of many third world countries in desperate need of the gospel and the most basic of necessities. The pictures, stories and attention should focus us on meeting those needs.
Each church may respond in a different way, but a response at some level is entirely appropriate. As noted before, the responsibility to meet spiritual needs with the gospel message does not exclude the necessity of meeting physical needs. If food and medicine does not quickly arrive in Haiti, many will perish and the opportunity to reach those souls with the gospel will be forever lost.