Going beyond the pulpit
"Brother let me be your shelter
Never leave you all alone
I can be the one you call
When you're low
Brother let me be your fortress
When the night winds are driving on
Be the one to light the way
Bring you home."
- Brother - Need to breathe
More and more, the Church is being called upon to be a part of effecting social change. This is more than going to the pulpit on a Sunday and preaching to the congregation.
Jamaica has been credited with having more churches per square mile than any other country, and for all that, many of them comprise mostly senior citizens, females and a few young persons - some attending under duress as their parents insist they go.
Family and Religion reached out to Keith Hinds, pastor of Prayer and Faith Apostolic Ministries in Bog Walk, who said that many of the churches are already looking at and addressing social needs.
He stressed, however, that with the effect of the economic constraints on the congregations and the economy, pastors are now faced with not just giving a message on Sundays, but also dealing with persons who are facing economic issues such as light bills, school fees, lunch money, etc. "Just basic interventions that would not normally be at a pastor's foot or things that should be dealt with in family settings," he said.
ATTEND TO THE WHOLE MAN
Hinds pointed out it is easier for churches with larger congregations to take on issues by assigning different departments to tackle them.
"It is easier [for them] than others to take on these issues because of the inflow of finances in those churches," he pointed out.
Hinds is firm in his belief that the Church's role is to attend to the whole man - body, soul and spirit.
"You can no longer just go to a church preaching the gospel and accept that as a normal situation because some members are hurting. Persons come to church with bitterness in their hearts, and they expect a word from the minister to deal with some of their issues. Any church that deals with the social issues of its members is a successful ministry," he said.
Hinds advised that pastors, too, must not be so caught up in their message that they miss what is plain before their eyes.
The social climate that many have to live in means that some who would want to attend church are afraid to to do so as they don't have the appropriate attire.
He said that many wrongly believe that they have to be all dressed up to attend church, and it is for that reason, Hinds said, that most Sundays, he dons just a shirt and pants, leaving his jacket at home.
"I want to meet them as they are. The message I want to send is that they can come just as they are," he said.
Hinds added that the Church is rapidly losing young persons because it doesn't have programmes geared towards the youth.
SATISFYING THE YOUNGER GENERATION
Referring to some churches that frown on their members for going to the movies, beaches and even some parties, Hinds said labelling these things as distractions is unfair as just owning a cellphone will provide every kind of distraction and unworldly content there is.
"Pastors need to be more aware and gear their social programmes to satisfy the younger generations," he said, pointing out that the church can be a fun place to be.
He said movie nights, fun events, and the chance to let their hair down and have clean fun can be refreshing for Christians.
"You want to ensure that there are programmes that a couple can come and listen to some decent music that is not gospel. A good love song is a good thing for a young married couple," he shared.
Hinds also had words for pastors who are content with staying behind the pulpit at church, where there is not a high attendance of unsaved persons.
"Some persons would think that a pastor should not go into a bar, but that is where souls that are lost would be. In connecting with the lost, you have to make sure that your ministry is so geared that you can go into the highways and byways and bring them to Christ," he said.