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‘Jesus people’ act on hunger, SBC leaders say
Mark Kelly, Baptist Press
September 30, 2011

‘Jesus people’ act on hunger, SBC leaders say

‘Jesus people’ act on hunger, SBC leaders say
Mark Kelly, Baptist Press
September 30, 2011

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When Southern Baptists observe their

annual World Hunger Sunday, Oct. 9, they will be called to demonstrate the love

of Jesus, several key Southern Baptist leaders said.

Scripture recounts several instances, like the one recorded

in Matthew 14:14, when Jesus’ compassion for a large crowd moved Him to meet

their needs. The Greek word translated “compassion” refers to tender emotions,

deeply felt feelings or a deep churning in a person’s spirit. That surge of

compassion compels a response, said Tom Elliff, president of the International

Mission Board (IMB).

“When the Scripture speaks of our Lord being ‘moved with

compassion’ it refers to the kind of response we would call ‘gut-wrenching,’”

Elliff said. “Society is accustomed to being lulled to sleep by scenes of

indescribable horror and hunger, but genuine compassion, the kind of compassion

that moves a person to act, is part of the DNA of every true believer.

“The tragic plight of people, whose lives are being ravaged

by physical and political upheaval that has left them reeling and often dying,

is an invitation for us to express the heart of our Savior. He did not overlook

the needy, and we cannot – we must not,” Elliff said.

“Failure to respond cuts the heart out of future attempts to

share the gospel. After all, who wants to hear about a Savior whose followers

simply do not care for the needs of those who are suffering?”

Scripture also makes it clear that Christians will be held

accountable for helping people in need, said Wanda Lee, executive director of

WMU (Woman’s Missionary Union).

“Matthew 25 reminds us as followers of Christ, we must help

when it comes to hunger issues,” Lee said. “After hearing His teaching on the parable of the talents,

the people asked Jesus, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You or

thirsty and give You a drink?’

“And He answered by saying, ‘Inasmuch as you did it to one

of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ … Let’s be sure we do

our part to minister to the ‘least of these’ as we join the fight against

hunger.”

Nearly 35 percent of American families have found themselves

forced to choose between paying for food and paying their rent or mortgage,

according to the domestic hunger-relief charity Feeding America.

In an economy like that, hunger ministries are a powerful

strategy for opening hearts to a gospel witness, said Kevin Ezell, president of

the North American Mission Board.

“So often before we try to meet a person’s spiritual needs,

we need to minister to their physical needs. There is nothing more basic than

providing food for someone who is in crisis,” Ezell said.

“We’re working hard to be sure our hunger ministries share the

hope of Christ, while providing the help of a warm meal and a kind greeting. I

want to thank Southern Baptists for their past generosity to this offering.

“With so many people facing economic uncertainty right now,

I know we will be greatly depending on these funds in the year ahead.”

Donations to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund have

been trending downward in recent years – perhaps in part a reflection of the

economic challenges families are facing – but many are praying Southern

Baptists will continue to be “Jesus people” who act out their deep feelings of

compassion for people in need, said Frank Page, president of the Southern

Baptist Convention Executive Committee.

“During these days of increased need, we desperately need to

reaffirm the validity of this offering to touch those for whom Christ died. One

must only barely read the Scripture to understand the deep compassion that

Christ had for the hungry and the poor,” Page said.

“I pray we will become Jesus people as we give sacrificially

and prayerfully to an offering which so powerfully touches the lives of so many

in this world. I pray that this year’s World Hunger Offering will reverse its

downward trend from the last couple of years and be the greatest ever – simply

because of a love for Christ and a love for people.”

Overseas, Southern Baptist missionaries and humanitarian

workers rely on the World Hunger Fund for crucial ministries, said Richard

Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“Millions of people around the world are suffering from

chronic and acute malnutrition,” Land said.

“Thankfully, missionaries are on the

field feeding many of these adults and children as well as providing the

expertise necessary for their communities to reclaim their lands for crops and

livestock.

“Yet without the generous gifts of Christians, these

missionaries lack the food and means to aid these who are literally on life’s

sharp edge. I hope you and your church will join with others in giving to feed

the hungry in Jesus’ name.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly is senior writer and an

assistant editor for Baptist Press. For information and resources related to

World Hunger Sunday and the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, visit

worldhungerfund.com.)

World Hunger Sunday resources

Churches and other groups who want to engage hunger issues

have a variety of resources available to them.

A new item for 2011 is World Hunger 101, a two-hour

church-wide event that explores the issue of world hunger. The downloadable

event pack from Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) includes suggestions about ways

to introduce the topic and how to consolidate a full understanding of issues

related to hunger. Each age-level session plan includes promotion ideas and

hunger project ideas. World Hunger 101 is available for download at wmustore.com.

A wide variety of resources also can be found at

worldhungerfund.com, the homepage for the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund

(WHF), including:

  • Bulletin inserts, the World Hunger Fund logo, mini-poster

    ads, videos and a PowerPoint presentation.

  • Soup can labels to create receptacles for WHF donations.

  • A mini coloring book depicting real people whose lives are

    being touched through Southern Baptist hunger ministries.

  • A drama script that can be used to educate church groups

    on the Christian mandate to minister to the poor.

Among the low-cost items available for order on the site:

  • “Impact World Hunger,” a four-page publication, sized for

    easy placement in most church bulletins, that also can be used as a stand-alone

    informational handout.

  • World Hunger Bread Bank to help churches, schools, or

    community groups fight world hunger by collecting money to donate to the World

    Hunger Fund.

  • World Hunger Fund offering envelopes.

  • A “B.E.A.T. Hunger” retreat kit.

    The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission also provides

    resources at erlc.com/hunger, including:

  • Articles on topics such as biblical directives for

    combating hunger and poverty and how to begin a hunger ministry.

  • Two sermons, “The Ministry of the Open Hand” and “Do Justice

    to the Afflicted and Needy.”

  • News reports on how Southern Baptists are fighting hunger

    both in North America and abroad.

    The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina has

    information and resources available as well.

    Visit ncbaptist.org.