“To me the gospel of the Kingdom of God would mean that we are applying what Jesus did…in all areas of life.” —Beth Wood, Halifax Vineyard
In the Kingdom of God, no one is marginalized, cheapened, exploited, or discriminated against. In the Kingdom of God, there is no injustice. We want every church, every ministry, every small group, every disciple to demonstrate that—to pursue Kingdom justice in our towns, cities, and neighborhoods.
A common misconception says that a church has to choose between caring about social justice and compassion, or about truth and evangelism. But if we really press into the whole gospel, there is no dichotomy. We get both. After all, Jesus preached the kingdom, and then he demonstrated that the kingdom had come by healing the sick, casting out demons, feeding the hungry, and being moved with compassion for the poor, the marginalized, and the foreigners. If that doesn’t sound like social justice, what does?
So how do we create a healthy church culture that engages with justice issues?
1. Engage with the larger culture.
No matter where you are, the culture around you has many entrenched systems and patterns of injustice. They might vary from place to place, but every nation, city, town, neighborhood, and household has them. These patterns can run deep in the minds and hearts of the people who are born and raised within these systems, and they can be passed down through generations.
Beth Wood talked about how to start thinking about these entrenched prejudices in our January webinar on justice and church planting.
Take some time to research and examine what’s going on in your backyard. It’s certainly helpful to read the paper and to pray for divine revelation. But probably the primary way to discover what’s going on under the surface of a community or culture is through relationship. Get to know the people in your neighborhood, to borrow a phrase from Sesame Street. The depth of insight you gain through taking time to listen to people and really get to know them will give you a much deeper understanding of what needs, beliefs, and prejudices are hidden under the surface in your culture.
2. Notice what God has provided.
Sometimes you figure out what you should build based on the tools you already have. When you’re thinking about tackling justice through the church, look at what assets you have. What kind of people are you working with—teachers, medical professionals, financial advisors, skilled laborers, stay at home parents? What skills do they have? What are their passions? Each person has something different to offer.
You also may have other kinds of assets—perhaps you are close to a city center where a lot of people naturally congregate. Or you have a 15-passenger van. Or a connection with someone in local government. God has already given you many kinds of capital that you can use to bring the justice of his kingdom to your community.
So take stock of the resources you already have in abundance, and ask God how he would like you to deploy those assets to serve the needs around you.
3. Partner with others.
Another kind of asset that you might overlook is other groups and individuals close by who are already working on the same issues your church cares about. Non-profits, other churches, food shelves, and even government programs can be great ways to get your church in on serving and working for justice in your community without reinventing the wheel.
Are you hoping to feed the hungry? Chances are, there are several organizations in your area that are also working on that. So you might get some people together and talk to the leaders of your local food shelf about how you can support and partner with them.
Let the Vineyard Justice Network help you! The Vineyard Justice Network is here to help churches address justice issues really well. Check out their website—under the Freeing Slaves, Ending Poverty, and Tending Creation tabs you’ll find all kinds of tools to help you, including assessments you can do to identify the needs in your community and the assets you have to help meet those needs.
Join the conversation.
We want to hear from you. What is your take on doing justice in the church? What have you tried, and what has worked for you? Share your experiences, advice, and questions below.