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 ...

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