The reordering of the federal budget presents the church with a fresh opportunity.

For most of two generations now, the government has steadily moved in to deal in institutionalized fashion with human needs once relieved by local churches in more personal fashion. As New Deal policies, resulting from the Great Depression of the 1930s, have permeated our society, food baskets delivered to the poor in the congregation and a deacons’ fund to meet the rental or mortgage payments of unemployed members are an almost forgotten memory for the senior few, and totally absent from the experience of most of the younger church. Growing government largess allowed the church, almost unnoticed, to stop exercising its function of caring for physical needs within the community. Most believers perceived that sections of government had expanded to bloated proportions, but few noticed that a vital aspect of church life had atrophied, leaving the church less robust.

The radical reordering of economic policies being championed by a new administration in Washington presents the church with a fresh opportunity to recover its lost role and rebuild its shriveled muscle.

President Reagan’s general promise that his proposed austerity measures would penalize only the greedy and not the needy is hard to square with specifics being mentioned as this issue goes to press. Unemployment compensation, we are told, will be cut off after a lesser number of weeks. Food stamps are to be discontinued for entire categories of current recipients.

As such retrenchments occur, evangelicals are presented with a made-to-order opportunity to translate increased social awareness into action. Make sure your officers know who has been laid off work in your congregation and when their compensation cuts off. Budget to pick up those payments in equal amount for the duration of the need. Find out who in your church family has received food stamps and be prepared to provide a functional equivalent if these are curtailed. Unemployment, moreover, is running several times higher in the inner city than in most parts of the country. If yours is a suburban church, therefore, budget an amount at least equal to your own needs to share with a sister urban church whose congregation will be much more deeply affected—as the Macedonian churches gave for the church in Jerusalem.

This is a cause around which all evangelicals can comfortably unite. Those of more conservative political persuasion who helped vote in the Reagan administration have a built-in interest in seeing his policies succeed. They will logically want to pair the philosophy of less reliance on government with that of a return to reliance on the church. Those of more liberal political inclination should now support the church in assuming those welfare functions being jettisoned by the federal government that historically have been the church’s natural sphere.

Changes are coming in television (see News, p. 74). Pressure groups are gunning for sex and violence. There’s talk that Jerry Falwell has in mind getting some friends to buy control of the ABC network. Boycotts are in the works. Broadcast material is so rotten in some communities that cable companies are offering key devices so children can’t see the worst of the stuff. In one town, 1,500 people jammed city hall to try to keep cable-carried profanity, sex, and excessive violence off their TV screens.

We like the ideas of getting monitors to chart program content and sponsors. Disregard the squeals of protest from producers; boycotts are legal and acceptable. Obviously, no Congress or court is going to save us from TV. The people who pay the networks to broadcast smut must be forced to suffer at the cash register when people who have had their fill decide to stop buying their goods.

If wealthy Christians want to buy enough stock to control ABC, that is their privilege. It has seemed strange to us that while Christians have made millions in many other legitimate businesses, they apparently have not done so in the communications media. Why not?

We think the virtually unlimited access to the public’s mind, sense, and values by those who so far have exercised precious little restraint must be curbed. It’s plain that self-control hasn’t worked among publishers and broadcasters. They have almost totally disregarded both community standards and the old test of redeeming social value.

Since our story (Jan. 2) about how one city flagged X-rated movies, we’ve received similar accounts from other cities. Changes for the better are coming. In the meantime, until the boycott works and until Jerry Falwell buys ABC, you can still do the best thing of all: turn off your television set. You don’t have to watch TV’s junk food for your soul.

During the last decade or so we have witnessed the rediscovery of the gifts of the Spirit as God’s way of providing the local church with complementary strengths in its members to equip it for its supernatural task in the world. This is a healthy development that we applaud.

But every fresh emphasis carries within it the seeds of abuse. In this case we are not so much concerned by excess in the pursuit of the particular gifts as by neglect of those duties that are normative for all believers.

The danger is that awareness of the gifts of the Spirit may become a convenient cop-out: “Oh, I pray for my neighbors’ conversion, but I haven’t spoken to them. Evangelism just isn’t my gift.” Nonsense! The Great Commission applies to every believer; each is required to bear witness to the truth he or she has experienced. Or, “I contribute occasionally to the church, but I don’t attempt anything like tithing. I haven’t been blessed with the gift of giving.” This is absurd. Paul clearly instructed (1 Cor. 16:2) that each believer is to contribute regularly in proportion to his income.

In recognizing and harnessing the gifts of the Spirit among its laity, the church has regained a dimension far too long lost. But it would be tragic if new truth were allowed to obliterate the old: that it is the privilege and responsibility of every believer to worship, pray, give, and witness in faithful obedience to his or her Lord.

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