US Christians urged to cancel church services and help poor

By agency reporter
April 22, 2008

Christians in the US should close their churches and channel their energies into helping the poor.

This is the message from the campaign 'Faith in Action', a resource developed by Christian humanitarian organization, World Vision, church communication resources provider, Outreach, Inc., and Christian communications company, Zondervan.

The call comes along with the news that two-thirds of American surveyed in a new poll say their churches are doing enough to help the poor despite the latest United States Census Bureau statistics showing consistent year-to-year increases in the numbers of Americans living in poverty.

This, combined with poverty indicators such as rising food stamp usage, points to increased demand for a complacent church to do more to help the poor, say Christian campaigners.

Conducted by Faith in Action and Harris Interactive, the national survey polled more than 2,800 adults. Sixty-seven percent of respondents "agreed" or "strongly agreed" with the statement, "My church already does enough to help the poor in my community." "Faith in Action is designed to be a step toward alleviating the complacency that is afflicting churches across the country, and an effective call to action to follow Christ's example of compassion."

Current data provided by the US Census Bureau reveals the national poverty level has increased from 11.7 percent in 2001 to 13.3 percent in 2005, or 38 million Americans.

Additionally, demand for food stamps between 2007-08, a key economic indicator provided by the United States Department of Agriculture, is up significantly in 43 states, increasing the need for significant help among more than 28 million Americans.

"These results, when combined with current census and economic data, expose a discrepancy between Christians who believe they are doing enough and the reality that Christians are just scratching the surface in our communities," said Steve Haas, vice president for church relations at World Vision.

But the study also reports that 60 percent of respondents "would support their church if it occasionally cancelled traditional services in order to donate that time to help the poor in their community".

Christians are now being invited to close their churches and mobilize in projects within their communities.

Faith in Action have produced a campaign kit which includes a step-by-step approach to transforming a congregation and reaching the community. The campaign will culminate in Faith in Action Sunday, which takes place this Sunday (27th April).

The program helps Christians invite members outside of their church to join in serving.

The survey also revealed that two-thirds of respondents said they "wished their church partnered with a non-Christian organization to help the poor in my community."

More than 20,000 Christians at more than 200 churches have participated in a Faith in Action Sunday throughout the United States. On April 27 an additional 300 churches nationwide will close their doors and complete their Faith in Action programs with community-wide projects to help the poor and disadvantaged.

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