Recently, I had the privilege of attending a luncheon with Gov. Mary Fallin along with other leaders from various faith organizations. The Governor wanted to thank faith ministries for serving the people of Oklahoma in a variety of ways. Without these organizations,there would indeed be large gaps in the ability to meet the needs of our most vulnerable citizens.
As a part of her speech to this group of faith leaders, Gov. Fallin rehearsed for us a plethora of ills that ranks Oklahoma towards the top of the list among states. From health issues, teen pregnancy, children born out of wedlock, poverty, high incarceration rate, to child abuse, divorce—on and on the Governor painted a very dark, but realistic picture of the condition of our state.
These statistics are not new to me; I have watched them for years. Our convention, associations and churches are involved in trying to impact many of these issues in a positive way. In fact, I am very proud of the many ways we, as Baptists, are on mission in meeting the needs of hurting people in our state. That is not to say that we cannot do more—we can.
I am respectful and appreciative of the heart of Gov. Fallin in seeking to leverage the work of government and the faith community in addressing these pressing problems. I, for one, believe that passion and creativity in attacking societal ills is far more anchored in the people of faith than government. When both areas are working hand in hand to relieve and turn around the downward spiral of a society, much more can be accomplished.
Passionate people are the people who get something done. They have an internal combustion engine that does not run out of fuel. People of passion are tenacious; they will not quit. As followers of Christ, our passion to serve the broken and hurting comes from the love of
Christ, which has filled us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I give thanks for the myriad of ways Oklahoma Baptists are involved in touching Oklahomans with the love of Christ. I challenge you and your church to find increasing ways to serve those who are less fortunate and to do so purely from a heart of love. Every day, we must find new ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
One of the reasons it is so vital that we roll up our sleeves and wade into the deep water of cultural sickness and brokenness is because we can do more than relieve temporal suffering. When we hand out a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name, we do so because we desire for every person to know our Savior personally. The government can provide food stamps, but we have the joy of providing both food and the Bread of Life.
For many years, Baptists shied away from “social ministry” because we had seen the emptiness of the “social gospel.” We do not need to ignore the more than 8,000 children in foster care, thousands who are incarcerated and the 700,000 Oklahomans who are in jeopardy of going hungry on any given day. At the same time, our reason and passion come from a love for people—a love birthed through a life-changing encounter with
the Gospel of Christ.
Ultimately, we are not about the “social gospel,” but the Gospel of Christ. Social ministry done in the name of Jesus as a bridge to the presentation of the Gospel has much greater impact. We cannot stop at meeting physical needs. Our task is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ that changes eternity for those who embrace it.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.