ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) — Send Relief, the compassion ministry arm of Southern Baptists, is encouraging churches to engage their communities by meeting needs and building bridges for sharing the gospel to commemorate Send Relief Sunday on August 7.
On the SBC calendar, the month of August represents an opportunity for churches to focus on Christian service, and Send Relief has resources for churches designed to help them plan a backpack day for their communities. Southern Baptists can also donate as Send Relief supports international churches and partners conducting similar backpack outreaches to their communities.
“Send Relief is passionate about serving churches nationally and internationally as they carry out Jesus’s Great Commission through ministries of compassion,” said Send Relief president Bryant Wright. “When churches are able to meet tangible needs in their communities, so many doors open for them to start meeting spiritual needs. Church members build relationships with those they meet and can then share the gospel.”
All Send Relief compassion ministry efforts center on creating opportunities for gospel conversations. Send Relief, a cooperative effort through the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the International Mission Board (IMB), saw more than 37,000 people profess faith in Christ in 2021.
One benefit of compassion ministry is that it offers a tangible expression of grace for those who have yet to believe the gospel.
“A world that doesn’t know Christ might not understand spiritual things, but they do understand physical needs,” Wright said. “They see the effects of poverty, homelessness and abuse.”
Without displaying compassionate care for tangible needs, Wright said, the church may face an uphill battle when it comes to gospel proclamation.
“If they look at the church and sense that we’re uncaring toward physical needs, they may be less inclined to hear us when we talk of their spiritual need,” said Wright. “On the other hand, when they see the church living out ministries of compassion, they become more interested in hearing why we do what we do. It’s all about the gospel.”
Compassion ministry is not simply about pragmatic concerns, though. For Christians, it’s also a matter of obedience. The Bible attests to the believer’s need to care for vulnerable people from the Old Testament to the New Testament—from Moses in Deuteronomy 15:7-8 to Jesus in Matthew 25:40.
Joining Send Relief to provide backpacks filled with supplies to those in need is one way to meet needs and open the door for the gospel. Whether it’s providing food or school supplies for underprivileged children or filling bags with resources for refugees or victims of human trafficking, Send Relief’s free ministry guide on sendrelief.org offers churches ideas for how to start conducting compassion ministry in their communities.
Bart Barber, current president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church Farmersville, Texas, announced his intention to recognize Send Relief Sunday on Twitter. He shared that he was doing so because, in addition to spreading the gospel, “this ministry has stepped forward to bless and serve survivors of sexual abuse.”
“I want to give through @sendrelief to help survivors because I want to help them with gifts that they know I have given voluntarily—gifts laden with love and compassion,” said Barber. “Here is something tangible and comparatively quick that your church can do to aid survivors.”
Southern Baptists can honor Send Relief Sunday by homing in on any specific initiative they choose, such as the sexual abuse Survivor Care Fund or to support Ukraine relief efforts. Funds donated to specific projects go to directly support relief efforts related to those projects.
The week following Send Relief Sunday on the SBC calendar is Serve Sunday. That day, August 14, provides a great opportunity for churches to combine the two events to make a difference by packing backpacks on August 7 and delivering them on August 14.
Churches can also take Serve Sunday as an opportunity to encourage participation in trips through Send Relief, either through a mission trip or through the Send Relief Serve Tour.
Overall, Send Relief’s mission is to help churches develop effective compassion ministry efforts that generate opportunities for sharing the gospel. Send Relief does that through offering mission trips in and around the 20 Send Relief ministry centers across North America, by providing training and resources to help churches meet needs in their own back yards and by providing avenues for international compassion ministry efforts.