The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.
In Chapter 4 of Luke’s Gospel Jesus gives, in 56 words, a wonderful job description for his ministry and a template to follow for holistic outreach.
When Ed arrived back in the UK after 10 years in disaster response abroad, he was struck by how difficult it was to talk about his faith because outreach had become so secularized. Many a charity founded with a passion to proclaim the good news had lost its original zeal for the gospel. Whether due to government funding or other pressures, Jesus was slowly transformed into a metaphorical statute on a mantelpiece, only brought down to show off when expedient.
At the same time, many churches, were struggling to conjure missional activities beyond singal instances of outreach and preaching the gospel.
Neither approach reflects the mission statement of Jesus.
Jesus did not say: ‘I have come to give things to poor people’. He said he has come to ‘release the oppressed’. When he healed someone, Jesus did not just speak about the Kingdom of God but he addressed that which kept people prisoner and turned the tables of injustice to set them free.
If we truly want to engage in outreach to way Jesus commanded, then we have to be careful not let our attempts become the helpful but shallow effort of just giving things rather than releasing the oppressed. We also have to make sure to nurture our desire to proclaim the good news, instead of make it secondary to material concerns.
Hope into Action, for example, builds homes for the homeless in partnership with churches. By working with churches, they aim to never lose that spiritual, proclamation edge to their outreach. When housing someone, they listening to their priorities and working with them over time on their debts, addictions, relationship challenges, joblessness, and much more – so they are not just giving a house but striving to ‘release them from that which oppresses them.’