FECA and Social Concern – The Road We Have Traveled
When our social concern Ministry was established 20 years ago, social concern was viewed as a core ministry, along with missions and spiritual formation. The overall goal is to satisfy our Father’s heart.
During the early years, our challenge was to convey the importance of the ministry in a traditional Chinese Christian context. Some of the questions at that time were: Why do we do social concern? If we have limited resources, shouldn’t we just focus on evangelism? As such, we put a lot of effort in bringing out the essence of social concern.
As we were laying the biblical foundation of social concern ministry, we chose to look to The Grand Rapids Report on Evangelism and Social Responsibility. We based our first social concern Sunday School curriculum on the report. The report classifies social concern ministry into social service and social action. It also views evangelism and social concern as two sides of the same coin.
A couple of years before FECA was founded, Rev. Gordon Cosby (Church of the Saviour, Washington, DC) came to FEC Glendale to speak at a conference and kicked off our social concern ministry. Through FECA’s relationship with Rev. Cosby, FECA was introduced to and invited Ron Sider (Evangelicals for Social Action) and Tony Campolo (Eastern College) to speak at subsequent Social Concern Conferences. Both speakers opened our eyes to see what the church can do in a broken world. Over the years, FECA has had the privilege to host many other conference speakers, such as John Perkins (The John Perkins Center), Bob Linthicum (Christians Support Community Organizing), Gary Haugen (International Justice Mission), and Tom Hsieh and Derek Engdahl (Servant Partners). Each speaker has contributed significantly to our growing understanding of the ministry.
Throughout the years, we have developed a set of Sunday School materials to help our church members develop a solid understanding of social concern and its theological underpinnings. We have conducted city-walking tours (Power Tours) to Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Koreatown, and Little Saigon to experience the struggles of immigrant communities. In addition, we have organized field trips to visit a number of inner-city ministries and to learn about incarnational service in poor neighborhoods. After many years of labor, we are glad to see a wider acceptance of social concern as an integral part of the Christian ministry.
With the resources and the structure of FECA, it’s never been our intent to assume a top-down approach and create ministries for member churches. From the beginning, we have encouraged FECA member churches to develop ministries that cater to the needs of their communities. About five years ago, we adopted the theme of “empowerment” as our main approach, applying the principles laid out in the book, When Helping Hurts. FECA commissioned a short film, “Catalyst”, to illustrate what “empowerment” might look like in the context of social concern. And we have attempted to “empower” the community in the Leprosy Rehab Village ministry and Superadobe projects. We aspire to build-up those we serve, instead of offering hand-outs that create dependence.
Rather than listening to other people’s stories, it’s time for FECA member churches to create our own stories of social concern. Instead of assuming what the community needs, some FECA member churches have initiated “listening campaigns” to discern God’s guidance for ministry in the community. This can be a turning point for our members to engage in reaching out to our neighborhoods.
As Rev. Cosby said of the Church of the Saviour that he founded, “[i]t is an organic way of being Church, always seeking to embody more fully the nature of Jesus Christ, who brings good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed – proclaiming an era of Jubilee for all God’s family.” We pray that this vision can also be realized among FECA member churches.