I've been thinking about and working with a food pantry ministry our church has in our community. I've recently taken leadership for this ministry and I've been thinking of ways to help move the ministry forward toward the vision of the church.
And it's been running in the back of my mind, aided by articles and bits and pieces of books I've come across that just giving is not enough. It's not enough to just hand out food, to add up the number of bodies coming through, the total pounds of food feeding hungry mouths. It's not enough to hug and smile at each person, to give them boxes of food to warm stomachs and wave a friendly goodbye month after month.
Anyone can do those things.
The government does those things (dispensing with the hugs!).
What makes it different when Christians reach out to others?
More importantly, why do Christians reach out to others?
Why do I wake up on a Saturday morning and bounce over to the church at 7am? Why do I spend hours organizing where to get the food we give away? Why do I give money to purchase items to add? To give to strangers and neighbors? Why do I do it?
It doesn't make sense, really. Why should I inconvenience myself? Of course, there's the nice little feeling I get, the little pat on my own back as I whisper to myself that I'm "giving back" and that I care for others. There's that bit. And I know that's a big motivation for many people.
But the thought came to me, deep down. The thought that bubbled up slowly and finally burst upon me that the mission is absolutely useless without the message. The message is what makes the difference!
This food we're giving, will not urge the heart of another to recognize the need for Christ in their life. The hug and smile will fade quickly and will mean nothing if the message of how it came to be there, or why it stays is not shared.
People need to know the message of hope. The message of the gospel. The food ministry is the vehicle- the means to sharing the story. The food expresses the care and love of Christ, yes. But it also needs the story and reason to be told or it will just be food. And nothing more.
The mission without the message is a void. The ministry without the story is just another program blending in with all the other non-profits full of well-meaning, kind people.
Mission is more than just being kind people.
Mission is bringing others to the kingdom of God. Mission is gaining their trust, introducing them to the Christ who saves, who brings everlasting life. Mission is helping them realize they can have a personal relationship with the Creator, and a corporate relationship with the church of believers.
The food is the bait. The mission is the reason. And we need to share the reason. We need to tell the story. We need to remember the message.
The message of Christ.
The mission without the message is meaningless.