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Between 80% and 90%

 The other morning in our Sunday morning worship service a guest speaker provided the following statistic.  He stated that only 14% of Evangelical Christians view outreach to HIV/AIDS victims (including AIDS Orphans) in Africa as something the local (e.g. American neighborhood church) should be actively involved in.  This means that child sponsorships, short-term mission efforts, long-term missionary investment, medical relief and more are considered outside the purview of the Church’s responsibility for the other 86%. 

I just thought was a really sad statistic.  After pondering on that through the service I began thinking of a connection with similar stat breakdowns.  Less than 15% of Churches have any intentional ministry to address the needs of individual with disabilities.  Individuals with disabilities make up as much as 20% of the US population.  Again, I keep finding myself drifting into this 80-90% range. 

Speaking of individuals with disabilities, fewer and fewer individuals with certain disabilities will have the opportunity to grace our presence.  Why?  Well, between 80-90% of all children with a prenatal diagnosis of certain conditions, such as Downs syndrome, are terminated en utero. . .They are aborted. 

Again, we find ourselves in this stat bracket.  I’m not sure why, on average, 80-90% of those who claim the name of Christ seem to ignore the grace of His image in their fellow human being.

What if we could move beyond the stats?  Depending on what research you read, there is an estimated 300,000-350,000 Christian churches in the United States. (This number is extremely dynamic as the definition of “church” is open to interpretation by many as is the ability to get accurate data on “house churches”).  Let’s use 300,000 as a base number.  If there are 300,000 Christian churches in the US then the average congregation is somewhere between 180-200 congregants (again rough estimates depending on what study you’re using).  Of course some churches (e.g. Saddleback in Lake Forest, Ca) have many, many times over times more than 200 congregants, but the average holds true across the country.

So, let’s look at our numbers again.  In any given congregation (using any group of 175-200 as a single congregation) as many as 172 people don’t think AIDS Orphans in Africa deserve their attention.  In any given congregation 160 people think babies with disabilities should be terminated, even though only 80 or so would consider themselves “pro-choice.” 

Over 260,000 of our congregations have no intentional disability ministry.  Which is odd since as many as 85% of people with severe disabilities go un-churched (there’s that number again).  Some small studies have also found that as many as 80% of marriages end in divorce when a child with a disability comes into the family. Could it be that the 20% go to those 15% of churches? Who knows?

What would happen if each congregation (again using the definition of a group with a mean of 175-200) decided to push against the percentages?

What if we reversed the stats?  What would happen even 80% of churches decided to accept the mandate explicitly stated in Luke 14 to welcome those with disabilities?  Would that change other stats?  I have to believe it would.

If the church did that and began to see all humanity as divinely created with purpose and imbued with the image of God would that change other stats?  Again, I have to believe it would.  Could the church radically address other social problems if we began to live in harmony and see those on the margins as brothers and sisters?

Let’s look at a possibility.

Every year 300,000 children are removed from their homes in the US and placed in the child welfare system as foster children.  There are 300,000 congregations.  What if every congregation committed to producing one foster family ready willing and equipped to welcome a child from the foster system?  What if every congregation wrapped their love and resources around that child and that child’s parent(s)?  What would happen?  Currently, 7 out of 10 (I know it’s a little outside the 80-90 window) inmates in San Quentin prison spent sometime in the foster system as youth.  The same is true for institutions across the country.  Could the Church change that?  In truth, it’s the only institution on earth that is designed to do so.

So, what about prevention?  What if every congregations through their arms around mothers and fathers (more commonly mothers) who are struggling to make ends meet and ill-equipped to provide the nurture, supervision and care children need.  Could the church prevent these parents from losing their children to the system?  Yes.  Sadly, less than 4 out of 10 children enter the system as a result of abuse.  More commonly the reason is cited as a “lack of supervision,” an area the Church can intercede in.

What if every congregation taking care of a family or foster child is a little too much.  What if 50% of churches wanted to do something?  Well, there are about 150,000 children available for adoption through local foster agencies in the US.  If 1 of 2 congregation committed to provide a community for these children, there would be no more waiting children.

Ok, ok that might seem a little much.  What if 10% of congregations (leaving again the 90% to go their own way) decided to step up?  Every year between twenty and thirty thousand (20,000-30,000) children exit the child welfare system with little to no support.  If just 10% of churches stepped up to support these youth in their transition then perhaps the dire outcomes of incarceration, homelessness, drug use, lack of education, suicide, and more would be changed.

Genesis 18:32. Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?" He answered, "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it." 33. When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

Genesis 19:27. Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28. He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.

Ezekiel 16: 49. 'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.