Monday, June 16, 2008

An Eloquent and Inspiring Call for Mercy by Kay Warren

I recently came across a piece by Kay Warren, wife of megachurch pastor Rick Warren, in Christianity Today. Though I would not agree with all that Warren stands for, I was quite moved by her accounts of recent visits to people in desperate situations in the Ukraine. Here are some moving selections from her article "Talk and Walk":

"People newly diagnosed with HIV come to this hospital for further tests. In one room, a man sat aloof, barely acknowledging our presence. Another man angrily denounced his government's weak response to people with HIV. Anatoly, a local pastor, invited me to this hospital and we listened as the angry man talked about his two-year-old boy with HIV. (This means the mother in the family is almost certainly HIV-positive.) In silence, we grieved together over the uncertain future of this family.
In the next room, two young women sat on neatly made metal beds, apprehensive at our unannounced arrival. One pretty blonde, 23, told us she had been diagnosed for a month. To look at her, you would never know she was ill."

The writing is dramatic, but so is the experience. Here's more:

"Pastor Gennady resembles a swashbuckling movie hero—tall and handsome, with energetic hands he distributes bear hugs and high fives to children passing in the hallways. These precious children once lived on the streets; their arms are scarred by needle tracks from drug addiction. Twenty percent are HIV-positive. Pastor Gennady is known for blatantly grabbing street kids from their hideouts. He offers them safety, detox, and nourishment for soul and body.

Late that day, I joined him in a surprise visit to a basement under a large apartment complex. He had heard that a street boy there was about to die. The entryway into the basement was a hazardous crawl, down a metal ladder hanging onto the wall by a few screws, into inky darkness. As I climbed down slowly, my eyes adjusted. I could see the exposed electrical wires, pipes dripping waste, empty syringes, discarded foil cards that held tramadol (their drug of choice), and dead rats.

The glimpse of wretchedness was enough to smash my heart yet again. In the middle of this, I caught a glimpse of another reality—a local church pastor being the hands and feet of Jesus to someone who perhaps had never personally experienced the love of Christ."

I cannot say that I have easy answers for the questions that revolve around "mercy ministry" to unbelievers. Should local churches invest significant amounts of time and money in it? Should they leave it to individuals to do it? What does the New Testament direct us to do on this question? Should we consider "mercy ministry" to be a form of evangelism? Is this the best way to reach out to the lost in our era? Or is it a distraction from evangelism? These are difficult questions to answer, particularly in light of the fact that the New Testament has to be carefully handled on this matter (as on so many others).

I can say this, though: I am profoundly impacted and challenged by work like that of the Ukrainian pastors. As a person who loves the ministry of words, I am challenged by those who selflessly and sacrificially give themselves to a ministry of deeds. I do not have the answers for the above questions at this time, and I do not endorse all that Rick or Kay Warren teach and practice, but I can say that I am challenged by their example and the example of many other faithful Christians whose names I do not know to be a merciful presence in a world of sin and sickness. Somehow, in some way, I know that I need to have such a heart, and that I need to have such a ministry, however much it causes me to shrink back from its call and claims.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Blogger Michelle said...

I think that "mercy ministries" as you call it, or evangelism by expressing God's love to others does have it's place in the local church and in the lives of believers. This has been my calling and area of ministry.

But we must be careful that the message of our words and our good works do not over shadow sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. The great commission calls us to go into the world and make disciples...can we do this by helping others? Yes, but we need to be careful that the "works" or our "church" or "organization's" goals do not over shadow Christ and his Word.

I live in Ukraine and have seen Pastors and churches exploit poor, homeless and sick people in the name of building their own "kingdom."

The church is not an organization, the church is the Body of Christ, when we glorify the church as an organizational body and glorify our human works over Christ, we are entering dangerous ground as Christians.

3:08 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home