The 21st Century Church: The Call to Economic and Spiritual Legacy
By Kris Nickerson
From TIME Magazine to CNN's Anderson Cooper, the mainstream media is examining and calling into question the emerging ministry of some Christian churches: encouraging congregants to find inspiration in the Bible that will lead to economic development and legacy. Dr. Rodney Sampson, General Overseer of Public Affairs for the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International (www.fullgospelbaptist.org), eschews that criticism, saying, "The American dream should be available to everyone. If I prefer to use the Bible as a source of inspiration and instruction to achieve that dream, that's my prerogative. Just as the latest book by Suze Orman or Michael Gerber is a resource for some people to achieve financial stability and wealth, others look to the Bible as a resource and guide."
But Sampson says the debate about the Christian church's role in encouraging financial stability is only one facet of a larger issue: the calling and relevance of the church and faith-and-family organizations in the 21st century. "The church is an integral part of any community, and as such, has a tremendous amount of influence," he says. "The question becomes, should the church use that influence to better the lives of its congregants? I believe the answer is unequivocally yes."
Sampson cites the Roman Catholic Church as an extreme example of a church organization developing relationships to serve the interests of the Church and its followers. "Throughout history, the Vatican has invested in nations, influenced wars, and amassed fortunes that enable them to fulfill their goals and objectives. Today, denominations, fellowships, and churches have an obligation to take advantage of the tools available to them in order to transform their communities and improve the lives of their congregants."
If properly structured, Sampson says that churches can help facilitate community partnerships, economic partnerships, and business partnerships, as well as use their clout to influence public policy - all of which will benefit those served by the churches. "Corporations recognize the buying power of the faith and family market, and churches can leverage their influence so that everyone wins," he says. For example, in exchange for church event sponsorships, companies gain access to their target market and churches have the resources to meet the needs of their members.
Led by Bishop Paul S. Morton, the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International represents 2,000 churches and millions of constituents worldwide, and recognizes their potential as an agent for social change and empowerment. "After all," says Sampson, "the Civil Rights Movement and human rights movements were organized and fought through the Black church in America." Their annual conference, to be held June 24-29, 2007, in Atlanta (www.fullgospelatl.com), is expected to draw more than 4,000 church leaders, 30,000 families, and thousands of business and community organizations. With the theme of "Embrace the Next Dimension," Sampson says the conference "combines the synergy of empowerment, education, faith, family and action to effect change on personal, community, and national levels."
The Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International may be on the leading edge of building partnerships that will serve its congregants, but Sampson hopes others aren't far behind. "The church is more than simply a vehicle to disseminate information," he says. "Ultimately, the church exists to serve people, and those people have a variety of needs. Recognizing the value of the faith and family market and leveraging their influence to form partnerships will enable more churches to meet more of the needs of their communities."
About the Author
Kris Nickerson is the Editor-in-Chief of Press Direct International, a global information website that provides reliable information tailored to professionals in financial, media, and corporate markets. His thorough knowledge of industries ranging from health care and travel to real estate and financial investing enables him to quickly grasp the nuances of emerging markets and technologies.
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