I just finished reading “Winsome Persuasion: Christian Influence in a Post-Christian World” by Tim Muehlhoff, Richard Langer, and Quentin J. Schultze. Let me share this thought with you today:
Church historian Bruce Winter points out that ancient Christians often served as benefactors to help better city life. They “paid for public works from their private resources in order to enhance the environs of their cities.” Government officials made sure to take notice of such benefactors—both religious and nonreligious—and publicly acknowledge them. Winter argues that this type of public praise is what the apostle Paul is referring to when, in discussing the power local officials have to punish bad behavior and reward good, he writes, “Do what is right and you will be commended” (Rom 13: 3) . . . Winter sums up his argument: “The picture emerges of a positive role being taken by rich Christians for the well-being of the community at large and the appropriateness and importance of due recognition by ruling authorities for their contribution” . . . Many Christians today also feel the desire to meet the needs of their communities, but remain isolated when projects are accomplished internally with church funds and volunteers. Unlike Christian benefactors in the New Testament, believers today often give only to explicitly Christian projects. While we may minister to a community, are we perceived as being an integral part of it? Sociologists refer to the resources a community has at its disposal as social capital. Much like a hiker takes stock of supplies—three matches, one flashlight, a single canteen of water—a community takes stock of its resources when facing a tragedy. For instance, they may know that the Rotary Club can answer an appeal for money, the local high school can be used for an emergency shelter, and so on. A local church must ask whether it is perceived as vital to the community’s social capital or just a group of people who merely take care of their own.
What do you think?