Please read this if you are concerned about furloughed federal employees.

As the government shut down here in the U.S. enters a third week, my heart is heavy for individuals and families who are without a paycheck while our elected officials play a crazy game of chicken. A week ago I passed along suggestions for how churches can step into the breach created by the legislative stalemate (read here).

As I wrote, I hoped against hope that the call for action wouldn’t be long needed. But here we are, seven days later without much movement in a positive direction and my hope of swift action from Washington is dimming.

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So I’m back with a plea to America’s churches. Please step into the breach created by the legislative stalemate by following the suggestions listed below.

Don’t think this is a challenge solely for churches in the D.C. area. Employees of the U.S. government can be found in communities all across our country — if not in your immediate neighborhood, most definitely in your county or state. Which, as the folks over at GenerousChurch remind us, is “an incredible opportunity for churches to shine.”

I hope you’ll read the GenerousChurch article and then pass it on. Most important, encourage your congregation to consider the following action steps.

WHEN WASHINGTON WON’T, GOD’S PEOPLE CAN — AS CONGREGATIONS

Charity at home. There may be furloughed government workers in your church that need help with everyday bills. Don’t make them ask for help. Reach out, and do so soon. As the GenerousChurch blog cites, almost 30 percent Americans have no savings at all. There’s nothing for them to draw on while they wait for the government to start up again.

Into the streets. There may be furloughed government employees in your community.This could be the time where God is setting you up to attract your community to the Gospel.  Additionally, this could be an important time for the people within your church to experience the joys of the kingdom of God through outwardly focused generosity.”

The poor with us. There are individuals and families in your region who’ll have an even tougher making ends meet as federally funded assistance programs are cut. Churches can help fill new holes in the social safety net. “This is our chance to bring joy for some who feel that they have no support or meaningful friendships during a difficult season of life.”

Churches never will (nor should, in my opinion) replace the government’s role in creating a just and caring society. But imagine the difference God’s people can make by stepping up while Washington is shut down. Quoting again from the GenerousChurch blog, “Here’s our choice.  We can write it off as a political frustration or we can utilize it as an opportunity for kingdom advancement.”

AND INDIVIDUALLY.

In addition to encouraging your church to step up to the opportunity/challenge of these days, I hope you’ll join me in making extra gifts to ministries in your community that serve the poor. As was reported in the Sunday edition of my local paper, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families are running on fumes. Another week of the government shutdown and services to our most vulnerable neighbors will be cut. Cash-strapped states don’t have the funds to make up for dollars lost from Washington.

My gifts or your gifts may seem like little more than spitting in the wind. But thousands of Christians giving together — now that’s real money. As we join hands, prayers, and giving on behalf of the poor, we can be a lifeline for needy families.

That, I believe, is what Jesus would have us do, even if the folks in Washington won’t.

What's your take on this topic?

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