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Thinking Out Loud

Christianity and Commitment to Service

by Michael Jinkins | Aug 04, 2015


Today’s blog is guest-written by Thomas L. (Tom) Jones (MDiv ’55, MTh ’59, DMin ’77), ambassador-at-large for Habitat for Humanity International and a former vice president and faculty member at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Tom is also a 2006 recipient of the Louisville Seminary Distinguished Alum Award.

My conviction is real and deep: 100 years from now, when historians write the ongoing story of the people of God for our present era and beyond, Christian movements/organizations such as Habitat for Humanity International, World Vision International, TearfundChristian Aid Mission and the like will be seen as key parts of the story.

After wonderful opportunities for ministry as a national staff person of the former PCUS Board of National Ministries and a stint as vice president and member of Louisville Seminary’s faculty, and after satisfying Presbyterian pastorates including Harvey Browne Memorial Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., at my request in 1992, National Capital Presbytery approved me for full-time specialized ministry with Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI). Following our family’s recent move to Georgia, Northeast Georgia Presbytery has approved me for my ongoing HFHI ministry, where I continue on the HFHI senior leadership team.

I have been very, very blessed with opportunities for Christian ministry in every chapter of my life. None has had more significance than my time with Habitat for Humanity.

From its beginning in 1976 in a chicken house in a Christian community called Koinonia Farm in rural southwest Georgia, Habitat has been, is and will continue to be committed as a Christian organization. Clarence Jordan, a Southern Baptist preacher with a doctorate in Greek and the founder of Koinonia community, is considered the spiritual founder of Habitat. Millard Fuller, the organization’s founder, then a 29-year-old millionaire lawyer, with his wife Linda decided to give their money to serve the poor and came to Koinonia.

From its beginning, Habitat took the call of the Gospel seriously: to serve the poor, and to save the rich. In its efforts, Habitat is completely inclusive in who can serve and be served. It is non-doctrinaire (the one doctrine being that if you don’t have a Habitat bumper sticker on your car, you are living in sin!) Habitat states its mission:

Mission Vision: A world where everyone has a decent place to live.

Mission Statement: Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope.

First of five Mission Principles: Demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ.

Habitat has never wavered from its intent to be a Christian organization. Habitat’s basic principles from the beginning have been “not a hand out, but a hand up.” Thus, potential Habitat homeowner partners do hundreds of hours of sweat equity, working on their own home and the homes of others. They assume a no-profit mortgage which they repay. Habitat challenges the volunteers to the Gospel call to give their time, talents and material resources to serve others.

Habitat is taking seriously research* which shows why so many groups start as Christian organizations, but after 50 years no longer are such: American Red Cross, Harvard University, Barclay Bank, YMCA, Save the Children, and many other colleges, universities, hospitals, etc. Habitat has established an ongoing “Process for Keeping God at the Center.” This is led by a leadership team of 24 persons, world-wide, from every level. All serve by choice. This team provides spiritual growth resources, devotions, prayer guidance, theological reflection tools, study materials, event suggestions, and the like for individuals and groups living the Christian faith by serving human needs.

The goal of Habitat is “to reach its 50th anniversary - and beyond - as a vibrant, vital, global Christian organization.” As such, Habitat is committed to provide the structure for Christians to join together “to prove what is the will of God, what is good, and acceptable and perfect.”**

Further, grounded in its Christian faith, without any threat to basic Christian beliefs - or the beliefs of other faiths - Habitat is secure to join with other religious faiths who are also called to care for the poor and who believe that shelter is a core issue. Habitat’s commitment is “to be a global leader toward all religious faiths working together toward ending poverty in the world.”

Habitat invites all persons around the world who pray - regardless of religious faith - to become Habitat Global Prayer Partners (see www.Habitat.org/pray). Everyone in the world is invited to pray regularly for “a world where everyone has a decent place to live … bringing together those who seek to put God’s love into action by building homes, communities and hope.”

But the real concern is not what the writers will say 100 years from now. Rather, to live the importance now of Habitat for Humanity and like Christian groups in the ongoing living story of the people of God!

*“Keeping the Faith: Maintaining a Christian Mission in a Changing World,” by Larry Reed, former CEO of Opportunity International Network.
**Romans 12:1-2

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