I remember when “show and tell” was a big deal in the lower grades of our school. Your family went to the beach where you got sunburned, tracked sand into the car, and picked up some sea shells. After the weekend the teacher had you come up front and tell your class about the adventure and show them the shells. Good practice in several different verbal skills. Show and tell.
That’s still good strategy – for your church. But before you can tell, it’s important that you show. We earn the right to tell what we want our neighbors to hear by showing that we genuinely care about them. So churches are always on the lookout for ways to demonstrate that they genuinely care for their neighbors, their community, etc.
Enter First Church, near Detroit, Michigan. Church leaders were pleading with God to help them find ways to demonstrate that they genuinely care about their neighbors. They would learn that there were hundreds of nearby families living on the edge of poverty and virtually buried in medical bills. Maybe there was a way the church could do more than pray and more than preach and more than a soup kitchen and more than giving away used clothes. As they prayed for wisdom they were put in touch with an organization called RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit debt-purchasing entity.
What they discovered excited them. They discovered there were 1,899 families in their immediate area, living in poverty, who owed a total of $1,832,439 in back medical bills…bills they would likely never be able to repay. However, working through RIPMD, the church could pay off the entire debt package for $15,000. So Pastor Sam, lead pastor, stood before his congregation the next week and happily announced they had paid the entire debt in full. The church erupted in celebration.
RIPMD sent a letter to each of the families telling them the good news. Due to medical privacy laws the church will not know the identities of those it has blessed with its generous gift, but the members liked it that way. They were blessing others, but without a hook. Just as Jesus did. Oh, and the funds were taken from the church’s “mission” budget, so they didn’t even have to take up an extra offering!
How creative is your congregation with the “show” part of show and tell? Are you thinking big enough? Are you thinking outside your traditions? Have you proposed a strategy that scares you a bit? What part of your community have you schemed to change? What resources – including people – are you unselfishly investing in your neighborhood?
Show and tell; show usually comes first.
By Don Jacobsen