Above, 8 Days of Hope volunteers rebuild the interior of a home after tornado damage. (See below.)
1. Matt Friedeman mattfriedeman.com AFAJ 01/15
RUNNING TOWARD THE PAIN – Being salt and light in a decaying culture has never been simple. The biblical mandate has always required wisdom, discernment, and a host of other Christian virtues, not the least of which are courage and love. Dr. Matt Friedeman, professor of evangelism and discipleship at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, has exemplified the call of Matthew 5:13-16 (“You are the light of the world … You are the salt of the earth … let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.“Excerpted from Matthew 5:13-16) both personally and pastorally.
The founding pastor of DaySpring Community Church, Friedeman is also a contributing columnist for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, political analyst, chaplain at the Hinds County Detention Center, and active in pro-life ministries.
Without relinquishing an ounce of gospel grace, Friedeman shares valuable insights about how Christians are to interact with their world.
AFA Journal: Given the state of today’s culture, how does it contrast with the nation’s past?
Matt Friedeman: America is a “We the people” enterprise. The Constitution didn’t say “We the secularists.” A “people” need to enter into debate and come into a consensus that the laws of the land are reflective of the God who is mentioned four times in the Declaration of Independence. And we fight until a godly consensus is achieved.
AFAJ: What is the scriptural warrant for Christians to be involved in social and political matters?
MF: There is a strong biblical case for social and political involvement. The teaching that touches me most is when Jesus said, “Inasmuch as you’ve done it to the least of these you’ve done it unto Me.” If a verse like that is reflective of the whole of biblical teaching, every believer needs a regular compassionate ministry. But there are some things you can’t do for the “least of these” unless you get involved politically. William Wilberforce and his decades-long fight against the slave trade is a perfect example. The modern pro-life struggle is another case in point.
AFAJ: In your own pastorate, how do you encourage your congregation to engage the culture as well as love and serve their community?
MF: Years ago, Tom Peters taught in his management/leadership books that the most successful companies had leadership that practiced “management by walking around” (MBWA). This was code for get outside your office and around the people. When I read those books, I thought to myself, That’s Jesus! Jesus was a TBWA – teacher by walking around. But it is important to note whom He walked towards: it was largely the needy, the diseased, the sinners, the lost sheep. If I want my church to do that, I – as a pastor – have got to be willing to lead by running to the sound of the pain in my community. The pastor needs to lead in outreach to the imprisoned, the elderly, the abortion clinics, etc. We always say in our church that “if you make disciples by sitting around and talking, don’t be surprised if your disciples sit around and talk.” So, as pastors – make disciples by righteous action, like Jesus. And ask people to “Follow me.”
AFAJ: Going forward, how can Christians challenge the culture regarding controversial issues, yet reflect the grace and mercy of the gospel?
MF: Rodney Starks wrote a book, The Rise of Christianity, which examines the impact of the early church. His premise was that people were willing to listen to the church on controversial issues when believers were consistently the first to nurse those with the plague, or pick up babies thrown into the alleys and raise them as their own, or love the unlovable. We can’t be known for our political stances, at least not initially. They will know we are Christians by our love.
2. Paul and Jean Cowell thechn.org AFAJ 05/16
Jean married Paul Cowell in 1961, and they honeymooned in a cabin in the Adirondack Mountains. “I’d never seen anything so beautiful!” Paul told AFA Journal years later. In that peaceful mountain setting, a seed was planted that would grow to full bloom decades later – after successful careers in ministry and business.
In 1997, they opened Whitestone Country Inn on the Tennessee River near Knoxville with a primary goal to bless and serve ministers and missionaries. As missionaries soaked up the peace, feasted on gourmet meals, and were rejuvenated for ministry, the Cowells began wondering, “How can we get this experience to more missionaries?”
They came up with a way. They founded Christian Hospitality Network in 2002, and have since led 21 missionary getaways at world class hotels in South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Volunteer teams routinely include doctors, Christian counselors, hair stylists, worship teams, and more. To date, 4,650 missionaries serving in 112 countries and representing 120 sending agencies have experienced the humble hospitality of CHN getaways.
Ill health took Paul to be with the Lord last fall, but Jean is busy preparing to lead another getaway to South Africa in October, where she expects to bless some 250 more missionaries.
3. Keith and Kristyn Getty gettymusic.com AFAJ 02/08
Though they hail from a country often known for conflict, Keith and Kristyn Getty are peacemakers, uniting Christians around an issue that often divides congregations – music.
With new hymns that are both singable and theologically rich, the husband/wife songwriting team from Northern Ireland has given the church a fresh musical voice that transcends the familiar categories of traditional and contemporary.
“I want to write hymns for the 21st century that really articulate what we believe as a vision for churches in the western world and beyond,” Keith told AFA Journal in 2008.
“If songs in worship are not expanding your mind to the glory and wonder of God and His redemption, and are not joining believers together … then you have to ask, what is that actually doing for Christ’s church? For me the plumb line is: Can the church sing it, and does it edify?”
Well known Getty hymns include “In Christ Alone” and “Come People of the Risen King.”
4. Ken Ham answersingenesis.org AFAJ 08/07
Australian born Ken Ham has spent nearly all of his adult life defending the most fundamental but controversial truth: God created the heavens and the earth.
Ham is a cofounder of Answers in Genesis. He is also the visionary behind the 75,000 square foot Creation Museum and The Ark Encounter, both in northern Kentucky near Cincinnati, Ohio.
“At a foundational level, the culture war is really a battle between God’s Word and autonomous human reason,” Ham told AFA Journal.
Ham contends that at this point in America’s history, an entire generation has been educated in a system that teaches that life evolved through natural processes. Consequently, the credibility of the Bible has been attacked, and the cultural decay that permeates western society is the result.
“We want to give answers and to challenge the church and culture that we need to return to the authoritative Word of God,” Ham said.
5. Nathan Harper globalfrontiermissions.org AFAJ 12/13
Nathan Harper is a missionary in what has been called the most diverse square mile in America, the Atlanta suburb of Clarkston, Georgia. There, over 60 distinct languages are spoken and more than 100 people groups represented. In addition, 31.8% of the population is foreign born. Most are refugees from Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and a few European countries. Many come with only the clothes on their backs and heartbreaking stories of persecution.
Harper’s call is to tell them about Jesus.
“One of my favorite questions [to ask] refugees is if they have ever heard of Jesus,” Harper said. “Sometimes they have, but even those who have heard His name haven’t heard the gospel. They don’t know that Jesus came to die for their sins, and there is no work they have to complete or mantra they have to say to be forgiven. It is an awesome and incredible privilege to be the first person to tell them who Jesus is.”
6. Edwin Hodges lovepackages.org AFAJ 03/06
Edwin Hodges recently completed 62 years in ministry – 22 as pastor, 19 with Bibles for the World, and since 1994, president of Edwin L. Hodges Ministries. In 22 years at ELHM, Hodges collected new and used Christian literature – Bibles, magazines, Sunday school curriculum, books, and electronic items – to ship to Bible schools, seminaries, and pastors around the world.
“I was enjoying this work at age 82,” he said, “but I began to have some health problems that made me realize I needed to retire.”
He and his small staff in Decatur, Alabama, have shipped 16,942,576 pounds of literature to 145 countries in 119 languages.
He’s retiring, but the ministry will continue at its Alabama location. When he founded ELHM, Hodges was befriended by Steven Schmidt, who had begun Love Packages, a similar literature ministry in Butler, Illinois, 19 years earlier.
As the ELHM board prayed for a successor to Hodges, Bro. Edwin remembered Schmidt and contacted him again. Subsequently, Love Packages is enfolding the ELHM operation into its ministry and has moved a staff member to manage the Alabama site.
7. Don and Sondra Tipton friendships.org AFAJ 10/10
Don and Sondra Tipton owned an exclusive equestrian polo club in Pacific Palisades. They observed excessive wastefulness everywhere they looked, and their hearts broke when news reports exposed children in Africa who were dying from starvation.
They began studying the Scriptures, believed what they read, and in the mid-1980s surrendered their entire lives to the service of God. A vision to carry food and supplies to starving children across the globe was confirmed when a ship was given to them.
Many trials followed, but God’s ability and willingness to provide have been evidenced by an abundance of miracles along the way. They founded Friend Ships Unlimited, and for decades they have taken food, cargo, medical care, and supplies, etc. by ship to many countries and U.S. states – always in the name and power of Jesus. God has blessed them with faithful volunteers, multiple ships, and riverside property in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
8. Steve Tybor eightdaysofhope.com AFAJ 03/16
Steve Tybor describes himself as “the guy nobody wants to give a hammer to.” But lack of skill didn’t stop the north Mississippi businessman from organizing a relief effort after Hurricane Katrina (2005). He mobilized 684 volunteers to go to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and help rebuild 84 homes in eight days.
He thought it was a one-time work, but God had other plans. Today, Eight Days of Hope has grown into a major disaster relief ministry with Tybor serving as president/executive director.
Since that first trip, 20,490 volunteers have participated in a dozen relief efforts. Volunteers have given 695,325 hours of labor worth $25.2 million and remodeled, refurbished, or rebuilt 1,785 homes.
But lumber and nails are only part of the effort.
“It’s about God moving through a grassroots effort of people from different denominations, different backgrounds, being the hands and feet of His son Jesus,” said the Buffalo, New York, native. “This is about God – what God wants to do through you and me.”
Other articles in the 40 FAITHFUL series
We Salute You
God’s image in man
God’s Word and words
God and government
God’s view of sexuality