People often doubt the influence they have to create change. They say, saying things like ‘I’m just one person’ or ‘it won’t make a difference in the bigger picture.’ The truth is small acts such as personal recycling or donating to food banks may not create ground-breaking change. But it’s these actions that inspire bigger change.
Let’s look at the story of Jesus feeding 5000. Anyone who went to Sunday school knows that Jesus was speaking to a big crowd of people, but they didn’t have enough food to feed everyone. Instead of turning the crowds away, as the disciples suggested, Jesus miraculously turned five loaves of bread and two fish into enough food to feed thousands of people. Many Bible scholars believe however, that the miracle isn’t in magically multiplying the food, but that Jesus inspired others in the crowd to share what they had so everyone could eat. Jesus inspired change.
At times, these small, personal acts lead us to advocacy. Small actions, like recycling and biking won’t reduce climate change, but they will educate and inspire others. When this happens, we create social movements, ones that can put pressure on the decision makers of our world, those who can create big change.
When it comes to big issues, be it climate change or poverty, we can choose to have the disciple’s mind-set, giving up when it seems impossible. But giving up isn’t an option. Instead we can be like Jesus and hope that our choices and our actions will inspire others to do the same.
Churches and congregations are often very well positioned to advocate to the gov- ernment on any number of issues, for one simple reason, it is how to live your faith.
“The churches must not only do good, but be seen doing good,” said Joe Gunn, Executive Director of Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ). He equated the work of the church to shining its light, rather than hiding it under a bushel.
CPJ is a faith based charitable organization that educates and advocates on national issues, especially poverty, climate change, and refugee rights.
We can approach almost any national issue with a Christian lens. This means looking at the issues and how they relate to the bible and to faith. This is exactly what CPJ does.
CPJ has created many resources about their work, one of them being their Advocacy Toolkit. This resource provides people with the tools they need to advocate on any issue that’s important to them, all of which can be used in churches or religious organizations.
As the toolkit explains, anyone can advocate, it is a matter of knowing who to get in touch with and what to say.
“It’s not whether or not we should do it, but how we should do it,” Gunn said of churches approach to social justice.
There is a long history of churches in Canada intervening to bring healthcare, and that is just one example. There can however be ineffective ways to help, churches needtofigureouthowto contribute best.
The advocacy toolkit is a user friendly resource that outlines the most effective ways for churches to advocate.
“It attempts to address how we can intervene as Christians in really helpful ways as opposed to harmful ways,” Gunn said.
Churches have the ability to make a real change in society, and the motivation is there too. Advocating for those in need, and protecting our earth are mandates of the gospel. The next step is to cast fear aside and inspire change.
Written by: Elizabeth Keith, Journalism student at Carleton Univerity and a Summer Intern at Citizens for Public Justice.
Originally published: Crosstalk, October 2015.