Are you, like so many other Arizona pastors, seeing the tangible needs in your church and church’s neighborhood increasing at a breathtaking rate?Inflation, evictions, rising homelessness, drug addition, mental health needs, gender dysphoria, crime, violence, etc. Our state is hurting badly, to an extent that I don’t believe I’ve seen since moving to Arizona 25 years ago. Government can’t address these problems alone. And, in fact, for some of these problems, government can’t do much at all.
Enter the church.
Now, more than ever in Arizona, partnership between churches and government is critical to addressing the pain in our state and making Arizona a better place to live. And let me be clear: we pursue this partnership while at the same time holding to the centrality of the gospel as the only means of true life change. As well, we hold to the firm belief in the separation of church and state as even taught by Jesus: “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s (Mark 12:17).” All of the above is true: so it’s a “both/and” situation, not an “either/or.”
One reason we at the Arizona Capitol Project connect the shepherds of God’s church (pastors) to the shepherds of government is to find opportunities for partnership to meet needs in communities across our state.
In fact, we’ve had Arizona legislators tell us they would prefer to partner with churches and ministries to provide for needs in their communities than to depend on government programs. Why? Not only do churches and ministries save taxpayer money, but much more importantly, help is delivered to people with compassion and love! I imagine most of us are already aware that government programs typically do not care for the soul the way Christian ministries can. Moreover, when a Christian ministry meets community needs, they do so while anchored to a correct theology of our world and the human condition that informs the direction and tone of their work.
I am so happy to say that during my 10 weeks at the Arizona Capitol Project, I’ve been amazed at how Christian churches in Arizona are increasingly serving their communities, at a level much greater than I could have imagined. The church here is truly making a difference by both proclaiming the gospel AND reaching tangible needs in their church’s community. I can tell you story after story from the past 10 weeks. Here are just a few:
- A church that held a Mother’s Day breakfast for women in the community who lost custody of their children due to incarceration.
- A church in central Phoenix that houses, on their own property, teenagers who’ve aged out of foster care.
- A church in Cottonwood that has purchased two homes for the purpose of creating 12 units of transitional housing for the homeless.
- A church in north Phoenix that is developing a training program for parents who have a child battling a mental illness.
What is the result of this service to the community? Absolutely incredible: people are drawn to the gospel, the only good news that will save them, and God is praised and glorified! “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:15-16).” In fact, churches that are meeting tangible needs are seeing people make decisions to follow Christ. Souls are literally being saved!
Our intent at the Arizona Capitol Project is to be ready and willing to partner churches with their government leaders on a whole range of issues. But two areas that have come to the forefront are foster care and homelessness. But why these two topics? Foster care is very clearly a societal need the church is particularly equipped to meet. What better place for a foster child to be raised but in a Christ-loving home, where they can be shown grace, unconditional love, and Jesus? And rising homelessness is named by most legislators as the #1 issue in Arizona right now, with upwards of 5,000 people being evicted each month in Maricopa County alone.
You will hear more about these topics in the coming weeks. Next week in this email, I will share about creative ways that churches can use their existing resources to help with our state’s current housing / homelessness crisis.
For now, if you want to get involved in this Arizona Capitol Project, send me a message to jdalfonso at azpolicy dot org. Tell me what needs are on your heart and let’s continue the conversation!
Assistant Director, Arizona Capitol Project