The Poor, the Needy and the Hope of Heaven

Mercy and justice are part of our job as Christ's Church.

He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 22:16).

My glad greetings to all who have opened this issue of Lausanne World Pulse. This issue begins our third year of publishing this global internet magazine for evangelism and missions leaders. The first month we published we hoped that someone would find us and read our work. We hoped God would provide donors so we could offer it without charge. Today, I am glad to tell you that each month over six thousand leaders from more than one hundred nations read Lausanne World Pulse. And, God has provided the finances so we can continue. Let the earth rejoice; let the Church of Christ extend to every corner of our globe.

I extend my special greetings to the three hundred of you from sixty nations who met with us in Budapest in June 2007 for the Bi-Annual Lausanne International Leadership Meeting. God met us in significant ways. I returned to my home and ministry full of stirring stories of your love for Christ and a lost world. I was made more courageous and hopeful because of your faith. To those of you I met, thank you for your love and fellowship in Christ. I am a happier man because of it!

In this issue, we focus on the reality of the poor and needy of the world. The needy are everywhere, even in wealthy countries like the United States. My wife Marie just returned from a mission trip to New Orleans (Louisiana), where the devastating hurricane and floods crashed on our shores two years ago. There is still so much devastation. So many people are still homeless. Although the flood waters have receded, depression and deprivation cling to the land. My wife and her team remarked that government efforts to help have in large part failed. However, they said the Church of Jesus Christ has stayed and continues to bring aid. It is interesting that the most powerful and wealthiest nation on earth has not ended this calamity. But God’s people are there, working house by house, block by block.

God speaking through Jeremiah tells us that defending the poor and needy is what it means to know him. This work of mercy and justice may distinguish the Church more than anything else from every other institution. Helping the poor and needy does little to improve the national economy. It doesn’t really strengthen a government. There is little “pay back” that comes from mercy ministry. Thus, it should not surprise us when governments and businesses respond initially to tragedy, but do not stay for the long run in helping the poor and the needy. That is our job as Christ’s Church. Why? Because every human being is made in the imago dei, the image of God, and creation is created by God. We are therefore brothers to all, and stewards of the world in which people dwell. That is part of our assignment while residents here on earth.

The work of mercy and justice may distinguish the Church more than anything else from every other institution.

You will read many sad stories in the following pages. You will learn that ten percent of the world struggles with disabilities. You will read of a mission agency living among the poor where there are more funerals than births and weddings. But do not fall to despair brothers and sisters! In the world’s most hopeless corners, you will also read of the Church of Jesus showing up, bringing the help that our hands, minds and pocketbooks can provide, and where the message of Jesus is as sweet as the cups of water given in his name.

A final word is in order. This summer, I am thinking a lot about heaven. I am longing for it. I am preaching it. Why? Because it is the best part of the gospel. It is the “real” land where badness and sadness are forever banned. As we serve the poor and needy, with no hope of anything in return but the knowledge that we carry on the work of Jesus, tell them about heaven. Give them the hope of the river that flows from the throne of God and the trees whose leaves heal the nations and hearts of those broken by life. Tell them. Tell yourself in the process. The gospel of heaven is food and drink to the tired soul.

Dr. Lon Allison is executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. He also serves as director for the Institute for Strategic Evangelism at Wheaton College. He is co-publisher of Lausanne World Pulse.