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10/1/13 at 01:51 PM 27 Comments

If the US Shutdown Lingers, What Will Happen in Churches?

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Photo: Flickr/Tom Lohdan - Creative Commons

By John Richardson

The U.S. population woke up this morning to a government shutdown. Since Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on the way our money is spent, and since they have trouble sustaining adult-style conversations, the government is grinding to a (semi) halt.

For some pastors and church leaders, this may not feel like a big deal. After all, we still get up and head to the office regardless of the disputes in Washington. Sunday is still coming. Weddings, funerals and counseling sessions will still take place.

So, what impact – if any – will the government shutdown have on your church?

We could very easily dismiss this issue and contend that the government shutdown doesn’t make any difference to us. After all, long and hard battles have been fought to keep church and state separate. Additionally, the Bible gives very little consideration to the actions of the government. Jesus almost never talked about politics and He consistently reminded us that we should be concerned about the culture of God’s kingdom…not earthly kingdoms.

It’s easy to dismiss this as one more political frustration.

But, if this shutdown lingers for any length of time, it could be an incredible opportunity for the church to shine. It could open the door to new ministry opportunities in every community across our nation.

Think about these possibilities:

There may be furloughed government employees in your church that need help with everyday bills.

Unless these employees have a surplus stashed away, they could quickly run out of money for food, gas, school supplies or mortgage payments. According to a 2012 article from Bankrate.com, almost 30% of Americans have no savings at all. Zero. And they may be a part of your church community.

As the Bible regularly reminds us, it is important to take care of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We would be wise to take a cue from Paul and set aside some financial assistance each week for those who are struggling. We would be well served to adopt the attitude of the Macedonian churches, which are known for “begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:4).

There will probably be furloughed government employees in your community that need help paying everyday bills.

Do you remember how Jesus taught the disciples in this regard? He said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

This could be a huge opportunity for churches across our nation to invest generously in their communities. This could be the time where God is setting you up to attract your community to the Gospel. Additionally, this could be an important time for the people within your church to experience the joys of the kingdom of God through outwardly-focused generosity.

There will probably be young families in your community that experience critical voids as they lose assistance from WIC.

It wasn’t too many years ago that our family had three children under the age of 5. I was pastoring a small church and my wife was a stay-at-home mom. From that perspective, let me give you a young parent’s insight: You can buy gold for the same price as baby formula. That stuff is ridiculously expensive. And there will be young families in your neighborhood that have no way to afford it apart from WIC assistance.

This is our chance to invest in those families. This is our chance to bring healing for some who have written off the church as greedy and hypocritical. This is our chance to bring joy for some who feel that they have no support or meaningful friendships during a difficult season of life.

The government shutdown may mean that your church is one or two checks short in your typical offerings. But, here’s our choice. We can write it off as a political frustration or we can utilize it as an opportunity for kingdom advancement.

How will this shutdown impact your church?


John Richardson is Communications Director for GenerousChurch, author of Giving Away the Collection Plate, husband to J.D. and father of 3 girls.

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