It’s been heartening to see the Body of Christ in action after Hurricane Harvey. Several churches, including the Anglican Church in North America’s (ACNA) Church of the Apostles in Houston, became makeshift shelters.
There are denominational efforts like the ACNA’s Anglican Relief and Development, the North American Mission Board (Southern Baptist), Missouri Synod Lutherans and many others. And, of course, there are the endless stories of individual good Samaritans being the hands and feet of Jesus.
Father Jerry Kramer wrote a great article this week on what it was like to minister in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina 12 years ago. Father Kramer’s parish and community was ravaged by the storm, nevertheless the church experienced resurrection. Ministering in the aftermath of devastation took the 163-year-old parish from missional irrelevance to integral part of the community. In the article, Father Kramer says: “The transformation was so profound, and so improbable that the Harvard Kennedy School of Government studied the parish for five years. The academic question being: How did one of the poorest communities in New Orleans (median household income $10,000) experience a 93% return of its residents?”
Before you read the article and see what the Harvard study found, I must ask you a question:
If a hurricane or other disaster hit your town, what would your local church do? What would YOU do?
Would your church house the dirty, homeless, shocked people? Be honest. Would you worry more about the clean carpet or fret over potential theft of precious sound equipment? To what degree would you and your church sacrifice in order to minister to the hurting and reach the lost with the Gospel?
A recent American Anglican Council survey of ACNA priests found that 32% of them think the congregation’s attitude/actions are a significant obstacle to church growth. Here are some responses they gave to the question, “What are the most significant obstacles to the growth of your congregation?”
- Our people won't invite others or mention Jesus/salvation in conversations. Church members complacent. Church members only know other church members.
- I've never been able to motivate the small local congregation to do outreach or even invite their friends.
In the face of disaster, my heart hopes that these churches, our churches, would respond as Jesus would have us – but don’t wait for a hurricane to hit in order to leave your comfort zone and share the love and Good News of Christ! Canon Phil Ashey, our CEO, recently preached a sermon on “The Power of a Great Confession.” In the message from Matthew 16:13-20, Canon Ashey shared how Jesus presents a model for personal evangelism- from asking the perennial question "Who do people say that I am?" to the personal question "But who do YOU say that I am?" Then Jesus demonstrates how the public confession of Him as the Christ, the son of the living God, brings the promise of power to prevail against the powers of chaos, darkness and death in our own community.
If you can, find the time to read Father Kramer’s article, watch Canon Ashey’s sermon and consider these questions: “If a hurricane or other disaster hit your town, what would your local church do? What would YOU do? And what am I doing NOW to share the love of Christ with the lost?”
Robert Lundy is the AAC's Director of Communications.