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‘Gleaning’ advocated as a key to American church renewal

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Penny by penny, dollar by dollar, Southern Baptists can battle hunger day by day.
It’s called “gleaning.”
While not as well known as tithing, it’s a biblical discipline, according to Steve Nelson, director of hunger concerns for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
It involves utilizing daily gifts, or even loose change, as “a lifestyle of doing something for the poor on a regular, systematic basis,” Nelson said.
“We’ve been praying for revival for years, but giving too little emphasis to human needs ministry,” Nelson reflected, noting lack of compassion for the poor may be a key reason why the American church still waits for a sweeping revival.
The principle of gleaning is found throughout Scripture, Nelson said. “Compassion for the poor has always been a part of the godly lifestyle,” he said, citing such Scriptures as Proverbs 21:13: “Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.”
Nelson emphasized gleaning frequently during an Oct. 9-11 World Hunger Consultation at Ridgecrest (N.C.) Conference Center, sponsored by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board in conjunction with the North American Mission Board and the ERLC.
“Encouraging our churches in a return to this biblical discipline is a key that will help unlock the door to health and growth in the body of Christ as well as provide needed resources for ministry evangelism,” Nelson said.
For Southern Baptists, gleaning can be practiced through gifts to the World Hunger Fund, which combats hunger in a multitude of projects across the world as well as North America.
Among strategies for gleaning are piggy bank-like plastic rice bowls and World Hunger Fund canisters available from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in Nashville, Tenn., at (615) 244-2495.
Nelson said gleaning is rooted most specifically in Leviticus 19:9-10: “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God.”
Gleaning, Nelson said, can lead “to a more fulfilling Christian life and greater joy. … It raises our own sensitivity to those in need, and it combats the tendency toward greed in our hearts.”
When it comes to world hunger, Nelson acknowledged, “… we sometimes look away from the problem because we feel inadequate.” The “sheer numbers of hungry people are overwhelming” and “the level of desperation can also be frightening,” he said, noting it doesn’t negate, however, the need for that first “small step of faith in giving or direct involvement.”
Gleaning can become a lifestyle, he said, without affecting Baptists’ tithes to their local churches or their gifts to such special offerings as the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions and state missions offerings.