Last November I gave a talk at the Evangelical Alliance Confidence in the Gospel consultation on ‘A Public Gospel’. I discuss the challenge for churches in working with local authorities, and in particular whether working with them affects their ability to share the good news.
You can read more or less what I said here, but this is a subject I am going to return to. Mez McConnell, who I heard at the Scottish Prayer Breakfast last year, has written about mercy ministries and provokes the evangelical church to have a long hard think about the impact such activities have, both on the ability to share the gospel, and also on providing real and lasting help.
His words contain one of the most striking indictments against the UK church – the frequency with which he is called by pastors who have someone who has come to know Jesus and they don’t know what to do because they don’t fit into the middle class church they have.
I think churches running food banks are fantastic. Churches are the people who stay in communities when everyone else leaves. They are there before the funding kicks in and after it is cut. They are lifesavers. But the church must also critically reflect on what it is doing, and the impact that is having – both on the community and the church.
The reasons for mercy ministries are fairly obvious, at least I would hope so. But what are the downsides, or perhaps phrased better, what are the unintended consequences we must be aware of?