Garland, Hall say family,
church, community 'hand in hand'
___By Scott Collins
___Buckner News Service
___WACO--Christian churches throughout the United States are involved in innovative and successful family ministry programs, and lives are being changed as a result, speakers said during the inaugural conference of the Center for Family and Community Ministries at Baylor University.
___The conference, "Hand In Hand: Family, Church, Community," brought together professional social workers from denominational agencies, church members involved in social ministries through local congregations and scholars active in academic research related to Christian social ministries.
___During the conference's concluding address, Diana Garland, professor of social work and director of the Center for Family and Community Ministries, said her research "shows that Christian families are stronger families, and their strength is rooted in their faith, and that faith is nurtured in our churches."
___"It is easy to jump quickly to what is wrong with the church rather than to thank God for the gift of the church in our lives," Garland said.
___Much of the church's success in family ministries comes "just as a part of being the church, and not in any special emphasis or program called family ministry," she noted.
___Still, Garland challenged churches to "think more broadly about the role of the church in family life." To do that, she said churches must focus on three tasks:
___ Nurturing the formation of families.
___ Discipling Christians for faithful family living.
___ Challenging and blessing the ministry of families.
___In the conference opening address, Kenneth Hall, president of Buckner Baptist Benevolences, said an important role of Christian social ministry is to show "pure and undefiled religion" to the world.
___"It is my view that pure and undefiled religion is defined in the way Christ lived his earthly life," Hall said. "For us to approach a world filled with unbelievable hurt and pain in any way other than the manner of Jesus is gross arrogance. Jesus tried to show his love every day. The followers of Jesus saw pure, undefiled service."
___Hall said churches and Christian social service organizations must be involved in that kind of service.
___"There is no true expression of the gospel that exempts service to others. Nothing negates the message of God's love more quickly than Christians who do not make humble service to others a priority," he said. "The kind of service Jesus gave to people was shared in such a way that they knew he loved them and wanted their immediate needs met. The ministry of serving others is the ministry Jesus left for us."
___When Christians are actively involved in serving others in the name of Jesus, then evangelism is a natural outgrowth, Hall said.
___"We do a reasonably good job of telling others Jesus loves them and wants to save them," he explained. "The religious concept that Christ is God's message of salvation is broadly understood. Where I feel the confusion lies and the reason for so much lostness and rejection, is that we equate evangelism with telling about Jesus instead of showing about Jesus."
___Throughout the conference, participants took part in workshops that included sessions on topics such as ministries to senior adults, developing character in children, the pastor's role in community development and starting after-school programs. Grammy Award-winning recording artist Cynthia Clawson provided worship leadership.
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