Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Working with government agencies

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for 
there is no authority except that which God has established. 
The authorities that exist have been established by God... 
the one in authority is God’s servant for your good.  

When it came time to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah asked the leader of the government in power for help. King Artaxerxes, though not a believer, gave Nehemiah leave, travel documents, and letters of credit. God had worked in the heart of this pagan ruler to show favor to Nehemiah.

In Genesis (39-47) we read that God had arranged for Joseph to become head of a government feeding program that saved not only Egypt but, also, Israel and the rest of the region. The Apostle Paul made full use of his rights as a Roman citizen to preserve his life and gain an audience with the emperor. God has established government authorities to fulfill His purposes.

Churches today are beneficiaries of many government programs. These include police and fire protection, safe roads and building codes. Some churches also partner with the government in summer feeding programs, day care vouchers, and senior adult and veterans' services to name a few.

In fact, urban churches provide services to their community that would otherwise need to be provided by a government agency. Examples include emergency food and clothing distribution, counseling, support groups, recreation, etc. More than 80% of the recipients of these services are not members of the church providing them.

A government of the people, by the people, and for the people works with churches and other local, faith-based groups for the common good. One such endeavor is the Faith-Based Initiative of San Antonio. The Initiative was created by the city council in 2016 to facilitate relational collaboration, active partnerships, and networked services between the San Antonio faith community, government agencies, non-profit organizations and community groups.

The Faith Liaison for the Initiative, Ann Helmke, helped to organize a group of churches in District 3 to work with Councilwoman Rebecca Villagran to tackle the issues of hunger and homelessness. Within a year we had four new food pantries and an ID recovery program in the areas of greatest needs.

As God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45),” So teamwork builds God's Kingdom for all, even, with the help of people who may not see the world as I do.