Glorifying God, Proclaiming the Gospel, Transforming Lives

The Gospel on the Ground: Why FBC Henryville Believes in Disaster Relief

May 23rd, 2013 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

Why do we partner with other churches in times of disaster and tragedy to meet needs?

It’s true that one factor is our gratitude for the thousands of people who came and gave to our relief efforts in our own time of disaster after the March 2, 2012 EF-4 tornado. It’s true that as followers of Jesus Christ we believe that we are called to love others and to express that love in tangible ways.

Both of those are good reasons to be involved in disaster relief efforts. But they aren’t our chief reason. Certainly our own memories and our own empathy stirs our affections, but we believe our commitment to help meet needs in places like Moore, Oklahoma comes from a bedrock foundation far stronger than our own experiences or our own feelings.

First Baptist Henryville believes deeply that the purpose of all of history, all of creation and all of life is the glory of God. God’s glory is displayed most clearly in the gospel, the self-giving act at the cross by which God brings sinners to himself in the person of Jesus Christ. This gospel that we proclaim shines a spotlight on God’s glory and transforms the lives of those who encounter it by faith. This is no ordinary announcement. This is no mundane message. The gospel is the greatest news in the world, about the greatest event in the world, focused on the creator of the world, who because of his great love for the world, saves sinners in the world, ultimately leading to the restoration and renewal of all of the fallen and hurting world. This glorifies God supremely.

And we believe firmly that an implication of this gospel is that those whose lives are transformed by it are to broadcast it to the world. We are to be tiny satellites continually communicating the greatness of God in the story of the gospel. We are to be individual mirrors reflecting God’s beauty as it is revealed in a blood-stained cross. This is the identity of believers. We are gospel people who live and die for this truth that has changed everything.

One of the ways we broadcast this good news gospel individually and corporately as local churches is through our passion for relief efforts in times of disaster. The Bible doesn’t simply say relief work between churches is a good idea. It demands it to be a natural and assumed consequence of a people whose lives have been radically changed by Jesus Christ. We are to proclaim the gospel in our homes. We are to preach the gospel in our churches. We are to share the gospel in our workplaces. We are to live the gospel in our lives, and we are to give through the gospel by meeting the needs of those who are hurting and in desperate need. We are to be a people who are passionate about proclaiming the gospel on the ground.

2 Corinthians 8-9 is a great place to see where Paul unfolds the Bible’s demand that this be the heart of believers. The church in Jerusalem (made up primarily of Jews) had been suffering under an oppressive famine. This was an economic depression and a natural disaster all bunched into one big tragedy. As a result, much of Paul’s church planting missionary work coincided with his passion to see new local churches throughout the Roman Empire (which were primarily made up of Gentiles) give financially to a relief effort to help their brothers and sisters in Christ in Jerusalem. In 2 Corinthians Paul reminds the church in Corinth that it is almost time for them to deliver their pledged relief funds. In the remaining time I have in this article I simply want to draw out ten short observations about how 2 Corinthians 9 informs our theology of gospel-fueled and church-centered disaster relief. (All verses in block quotations are from the ESV.)

1. 2 Corinthians 9:1-5

Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.

Meeting needs through the gospel is to be an intentional ministry of the local church. Paul notes that he thinks it is “superfluous” to remind them about the disaster relief ministry. He knows, and assumes, that they are going to come through with their pledged donation. That doesn’t mean he sits back on his laurels and just waits for it to happen. He believes the Corinthian congregation will come through, but he is putting feet to the work in making intentional preparations to ensure they come through. He is “sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter.” He is intentional about arranging “in advance for the gift you have promised.” We cannot merely say that giving to disaster relief is a good idea. We have to put this ministry into action.

2. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Meeting needs through the gospel must come from the overflow of a willing heart. Back in verse 5 Paul noted that the gift must be “willing…not as an exaction,” and he explains what he means here. He certainly calls them to abundant and even sacrificial giving. He wants them to “sow bountifully.” He doesn’t simply want them to contribute “chump change.” Yet he doesn’t want to force the gift or tax them either. God wants the contributions to be joyous and cheerful. Because of this each believer must decide for themselves the amount and to what extent they can give to this ministry.

3. 2 Corinthians 9:8-10

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,

“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

Meeting needs through the gospel is an act of faithfulness to what God has provided. We do not engage in these efforts in our own strength. God is the one who provides our every need and provides our every resource in “all sufficiency” that we then contribute to relief efforts in the gospel. “He has distributed freely.” He “will supply and multiply your seed for sowing. “

4. 2 Corinthians 9:8-11

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,

“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

Meeting needs through the gospel is one reason for which God provides for his people. Many of us have heard the often repeated sentence, “We are blessed to be a blessing.” Sometimes that can sound trite, but it’s still true. We are given resources by God not so that we can hoard them or selfishly please our every whim, but so we may “abound in every good work.” We are told that God will certainly multiply our seed, but not for some sickened form of personal prosperity but for the purpose of sowing – meeting the needs of others for the cause of Christ. We are the recipients of God’s gifts “to be generous in every way.”

5. 2 Corinthians 9:12

For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

Meeting needs through the gospel is not just about meeting needs. It’s ultimately about God. The relief efforts like the ones we are engaging in for the people of Moore, Oklahoma ultimately flow from our passion for God. It is the overflow of our own thanksgiving to God for his goodness, not simply our knee-jerk reaction to the hurting of those around us. When we give to relief efforts through local churches we aren’t simply sending a message about how we feel about the victims of tragedy. We are sending a message about how we feel about God.

6. 2 Corinthians 9:13

By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

Meeting needs through the gospel is ultimately for the purpose of seeing others glorify God. Through our efforts we become instruments in God’s purposes to lead others to glorify God – to see and savor his greatness, power, wisdom, goodness, beauty, authority, control, and salvation.

7. 2 Corinthians 9:13

By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

Meeting needs through the gospel is an outward sign of inner submission to God. It is a lived-out display of our own confession of the gospel. If we confess the gospel, then what overflows are joyous hearts that yearn to meet needs through the gospel. We should also note that here Paul directly connects the church’s confession of the gospel with their response to their brothers and sisters who are in need. For believers then, being engaged with disaster relief efforts with sister churches is an outward fruit of believing the gospel.

8. 2 Corinthians 9:13

By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

Meeting needs through the gospel is not limited to one place or one event. We are to be meeting needs in our own community, in our own church, in our own state, in our own neighborhoods. We don’t exist for Moore, Oklahoma. We exist for God, and our giving to relief efforts in places like Moore, Oklahoma showcases our love for them “and for all others.”

9. 2 Corinthians 9:14

while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

Meeting needs through the gospel binds believers together. Putting the gospel into action in these ways becomes the means by which God glues and cements our hearts together. Paul told the Corinthians that the believers in Jerusalem would lovingly long for them, and faithfully pray for them. This is the steel-strong binding of Christian fellowship. In responding to meet the needs of those in Oklahoma, particularly through the local churches there, the believers there are united to us in love and prayer as we recognize that in Christ we are the recipients of God’s grace.

10. Corinthians 9:15

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Meeting needs through the gospel ultimately comes back to stirring within us the very message of the gospel itself. It’s all about Jesus. We give sacrificially to meet needs because we worship the God who in an act of infinite sacrifice gave the gift of infinitely supreme value (himself) to meet our most desperate need. Our gifts can be expressed through gift-cards and rebuilding projects. God’s gift is at heart inexpressible. It is too great to fully be expressed. All that we can do in response is believe, love, cling to, and worship in response. When we give and go and meet needs in the gospel we are always strengthened in our own overwhelming encounter with the God who has given all so that we might have him.

Will you join us in this gospel ministry? Will you join us in putting the gospel on the ground in places like Moore, Oklahoma? We are mobilizing now to work with and assist sister churches seeking to meet the needs in that tornado ravaged region. Toby is travelling to meet with pastors to plan ways we can build a long-term partnership. We have established a relief fund in which one hundred percent of the donations will go to meet real needs of real people who have been impacted by the EF-5 tornado. If you would like to contribute to this fund, please send checks (P.O. Box 87 Henryville, 47126) payable to FBC Henryville, with “Moore Relief” in the Memo-Line. Please pray for us. Please pray for Moore. Please pray that the gospel powerfully works in the midst of the pain to create something beautiful – eternally beautiful.

In this gospel and on this ground,

Pastor Cade

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