OUR ORGANIZATIONAL COMMITMENT
We affirm the biblical basis for combining bold proclamation of the gospel with the meeting of social and physical needs. The God of the Bible is rich with mercy and compassion, primarily demonstrated in His initiative to redeem fallen humanity through the sacrifice of His Son (Rom. 9:23; Eph. 2:7).
Jesus is the mercy of God incarnate and lived the most compassionate life ever lived. From the depth of His compassionate heart, He boldly proclaimed the Kingdom, taught people how to live under God’s reign and rule, and brought healing to every manner of sickness, sin, demonic oppression, and death (Matt. 4:23; 9:35). Jesus calls His followers to extend His loving reign and rule on earth through passionate proclamation and compassionate demonstration of the Gospel.
We also affirm our unique calling as Cru, to help bring the gospel message to every person on earth. There is ample biblical precedent for stand-alone proclamation of the gospel message, e.g. Acts 17:22-34, and it is often appropriate to simply share the saving message of Jesus.
For the past 150 years, much Christian ministry has been shaped by a false dichotomy of either good deeds with no gospel proclamation, or gospel proclamation with no tangible help to people in need. Jesus typically met spiritual, emotional, and physical needs in an integrated fashion (e.g. the paralytic in Mt. 9). Similarly, the Church – until about 1850 – was characterized by both compassionate works toward the needy and passionate proclamation of the gospel message. Therefore, we desire to reconnect the compassionate works and words of the gospel throughout the fabric of the USCM.
We desire to respond to crises and disasters with Christ’s compassion, but we do not believe God is calling us to build a relief organization and expend the resources required to do so. Other mission organizations and agencies exist for that purpose. We will not duplicate those efforts, but will partner appropriately with organizations such as Impact, GAiN, Global Hope, the National Baptist Convention, Samaritan’s Purse, Southern Baptists, etc.
This generation of believers desires to meet tangible needs. USCM tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and Haiti earthquake relief efforts have demonstrated that helping the needy is a transforming experience for Christian students and a powerful way to make deep connections with non-Christian students. Also, Scripture and personal experience indicate that the most fruitful explanations of the gospel usually include the living message of a changed life and clear presentations of gospel truth.
In summary, we believe we will be most effective at winning students to Christ, building them into true followers of Christ, and sending them to launch movements everywhere if we find ways to reconnect the compassionate works and words of the gospel. Combining the compassionate works and words of Christ can take us to a new level of connecting with all kinds of students and mobilizing them to start movements everywhere so that every person on earth knows someone who truly follows Christ.
COMBINING THE COMPASSIONATE WORDS & WORKS OF THE GOSPEL: THE BIBLICAL BASIS
THE NATURE OF GOD
The God of the Bible is rich with mercy and compassion. The Old Testament is filled with passages like Psalm 103: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love ... as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him ... as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.” The New Testament writers, of course, continue this theme, declaring that God has demonstrated His great compassion toward us through Jesus. “In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding” (Eph. 1:7, emphasis mine). Actually, the entire “focus of the New Testament is that the wealth of God’s glory is, at its apex, the wealth of His mercy" (John Piper, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, 90). The heart of God is filled with compassion.
THE LIFE AND MINISTRY OF JESUS
Jesus is the mercy of God incarnate and lived the most compassionate life ever lived. “Since Christ is the incarnate display of the wealth of the mercies of God, it is not surprising that his life on earth was a lavish exhibit of mercies to all kinds of people. Every kind of need and pain was touched by the mercies of Jesus in his few years on earth” (Piper, S&S, 92). Jesus was often “moved with compassion” to cleanse lepers, heal various diseases, free those tormented by demonic power, give sight to the blind, and raise the dead.
The flame of Jesus’ mercy was not only fanned by suffering but also by the oppressive power of sin. He ate with “tax collectors and sinners” out of tender compassion for them. He was deeply burdened over the multitudes that were distressed and downcast by sin and left vulnerable like sheep without a shepherd. His entire life and ministry were characterized and climaxed by sacrificial service on behalf of the poor, sick, oppressed, blind, sinful, dead, and perishing. He “did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mt. 20:28). He is the Great Redeemer of not only the human soul but of the whole person, society, and culture. He calls His followers into the same ministry of redemption and reconciliation.
GOD’S CALL TO HIS PEOPLE
Because the Father and Son are rich with mercy and compassion, God’s people have always been called to mercy and compassion toward the needy of society. There are over 2,000 references in the Scripture where God is calling his people to divide their bread with the hungry, bring the homeless poor into their homes, cover the naked, preach good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, comfort those who mourn, help the helpless, be a father to the fatherless, bring relief to widows, free captives, bring justice to the oppressed – to be people who “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with [our] God” (Psalm 41:1; 68:5,6; Prov. 3:28; 14:31; 19:17; Isaiah 58:1-12; 61:1-6; 65:17-25; Jer. 22:16; 29:4-7; Ez. 16:49-50; Micah 6:8, to list a few).
THE POWER OF GOSPEL PROCLAMATION AND SELFLESS SERVICE
“When the communists took over Russia in 1917, they did not make Christianity illegal. Their constitution, in fact, did guarantee freedom of religion. But what they did make illegal was for the church to do any ‘good works.’ No longer could the church fulfill its historic role in feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, housing the orphan, educating children or caring for the sick. What was the result? Seventy years later, the church was totally irrelevant to the communities in which it dwelt. What Lenin did by diabolic design, most churches have done by default. But the result is identical. Church is irrelevant to most people. Take away service and you take away the church’s power, influence, and evangelistic effectiveness. The power of the gospel is combining the life-changing message with selfless service" (Eric Swanson, Ten Paradigm Shifts Toward Community Transformation, 4).
In the USCM, we desire to reconnect selfless service with sharing the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. We want to spawn movements everywhere of students who selflessly serve the university and community where they live, meeting needs with the compassion of Christ, and who passionately share the life-changing message of Jesus. And as we reconnect selfless service with passionate proclamation, we believe we will enjoy a new level of power, influence and evangelistic effectiveness – for the salvation of the lost and the glory of God.
USCM Executive Team – April 2006
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