World Vision President Richard Stearns on What the Aftermath of Harvey Reveals About the Authentic American Church

(Kevin Vandiver, World Vision/Genesis Photos)

What we’re seeing in Texas after Hurricane Harvey proves that disasters can bring out humanity’s best. There are heroic rescues, volunteers working around the clock, and donations and support flowing in from all corners of the country.

This kind of crisis is also the finest hour for the church. Reaching out to our neighbors in need is firmly in the Christian wheelhouse. Harvey showcases our selflessness, our embrace for all people, regardless of race, religion, ideology or even immigration status.

Churches across Houston are opening their doors to shelter displaced people. Some are doing more. Pastor Mike McGown and members of Parkway Fellowship Church in Katy, Texas, have been out in a Humvee and an inflatable raft rescuing stranded people in his community. Mike and his team are just as personally affected by Harvey as everyone in the greater Houston area, but they are reflexively living out the church’s role as a source of help and a place of refuge.

This is the American church at its best, representing the Jesus everybody loves. But too often, we embody a much less lovable version of Christianity. In times when there’s not a compelling crisis, we fall back on our more unattractive patterns: our tribal differences, judging those outside the church, and our never-ending skirmishes in the culture wars. These behaviors tend to push people away from Jesus.

It’s unfortunate that we need a disaster to remind us of who we really are. Jesus intended his church to be healers of human brokenness. He called us to rush toward suffering rather than avoid it, going to the hard places where no one else goes, loving those the world has overlooked.

In that way, churches are like white blood cells for the world. White blood cells, if you know your biology, account for just one percent of our blood, but they play an important role in battling viruses and bacteria that make us sick. The cells rush to the parts of the body that are in distress. They heal our wounds and fight our infections, restoring the body to wholeness.

The open sores of our society are not just brought on by natural disasters, but also hunger, poverty, injustice and exploitation. Jesus sends this church to be healing medicine to broken people who feel victimized, marginalized, and excluded. We’re Christ’s first responders, loving others in the selfless way God loves us—a witness just as powerful as words.

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SOURCE: Charisma News
Richard Stearns is president of World Vision U.S. and author of The Hole in our Gospel and Unfinished.

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