Whose Work Is Grace?

A friend of ours confided last night that she and her husband can’t pay their bills this month.  Any of them.  They’re making changes, like moving across the country, to get better footing, but until then, for the next couple months at least, they have nothing coming in but bills.

We were honored that they trusted enough to share all this.  We promised to help.  We’ve done a little but we can’t do it all.

So, once again, I called my church.  This time things were different.  I was told there’s a new fund, at least it has a new name, that provides for members in these kinds of situations.  And our church gives money to an organization called Graceworks as well, that helps those outside our church with groceries, health care and rent assistance.  My kids and I have volunteered in their food pantry before and from what I’ve seen it’s a great relief organization for our county.

Because the minister in charge of this new benevolence fund is out of the office, I’ll have to wait until Monday to ask for help on behalf of our friends.  In the meantime we’re telling them about Graceworks in hopes that they can get some help a little sooner.

This has me thinking about how I define “Church.” I often say this or that is the Church’s job and not the government’s. I capitalize “Church” because it reminds me that all Christians worldwide are what the bible calls God’s ambassadors, His living letter, His ikon, one “bride.” We are conduits of deity in this sense.  All of us, whether meeting in the same building on the same day under the same denominational banner or not, are the Church.

So, if that’s true, then parachurch organizations like Graceworks – funded and supported by the local churches – are the Church too.  If they are extensions of the Church then they unify the local churches and allow us to do what the local congregation on it’s own isn’t doing or, for whatever reason, is unable to do.  So, every time Graceworks feeds a family my church is feeding that family, and I, as a giver to my church, am feeding that family and the Church is feeding that family.

Does all this take the local church and me off the hook so to speak for personally and more directly extending mercy to those in need though?

When I called Graceworks I was asked, “What have you been able to do to assist this family before contacting us?” Great question.  It implies that in Graceworks’ mind mercy is not just my church’s job, or a parachurch ministry’s job, but mine as well.