". . . Christianity served as a revitalization movement that arose in response to the misery, chaos, fear, and brutality of life in the urban Greco-Roman world. . . . Christianity revitalized life in Greco-Roman cities by providing new norms and new kinds of social relationships able to cope with many urgent problems. To cities filled with the homeless and impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachment. To cities filled with orphans and widows, Christianity provided a new and expanded sense of family. To cities torn by violent ethnic strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity. And to cities faced with epidemics, fire, and earthquakes, Christianity offered effective nursing services. . . . For what they brought was not simply an urban movement, but a new culture capable of making life in Greco-Roman cities more tolerable." Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, Princeton University Press, 1996, page 161.
Christ, in our opinion and conviction, is the answer to the brokenness in our communities and nations. Christ embodied in the ordinary follower changes the world. I set out to find some of the statements from historical records referring to the counter-cultural movement of Christ followers and I ran across Rodney Stark’s summary above. There was a marked contrast of the belief and behavior of Christ followers. And there was a cost. Recognized as “atheists” because they rejected the pantheon of the Greco-Roman gods, many Christ followers lost their lives, but not before making an impact on their community.
Early Christians were markedly different and brought forward the fragrance of Christ into the brokenness of the communities they lived among. Take a minute and re-read Rodney Stark’s description of early Christians. Chances are they did not fix the problems, people, or places they were in – rather they were present, recognizing that Christ, too, is present offering relationship, care, and hope. “Christianity revitalized life in Greco-Roman cities by providing new norms and new kinds of social relationships able to cope with many urgent problems.”
Safe Families for Children provides a model and backbone support to offer relational hope by ordinary people, motivated by an extraordinary Christ. The same Christ that motivated such counter-cultural change in early Greco-Roman society, still motivates us today. The writer of Hebrews suggests that since we are surrounded by such a great multitude of witnesses who have finished their “race”, we press forward throwing off all that hinders us from living a life of faith. We have been grafted into the narrative of Christ followers putting faith into action.
This past July, Safe Families entered into a partnership with Oregon DHS to launch a pilot project to demonstrate that volunteers through the local church could deflect 10% of the kids entering foster care. This pilot expands the referring network across the state to better connect people to people. This pilot project provides the context for the church to step into relationship with families in crisis in our local communities, opening our hearts and homes. This is once again an opportunity for Christ followers to stick out and provide a counter-cultural response of love, hope, generosity, and hospitality to prevent social isolation, abuse, neglect and deflect families from being alone or entering the foster system unnecessarily .
This partnership is expanding the imagination of the state as they develop a new pathway for deflecting families from entering into mandated separation into the state foster system. Safe Families is one more way to expand the imagination and response of the local church as we develop creative and practical ways to love our neighbors, referred to us by state agencies and community partners.
There are so many ways Christ followers are embodying God’s love for all people in our communities. We are so grateful for your investment in this messy, complicated, and hopeful movement we call Safe Families for Children. Thank you for being a fragrance of hope and pointing to the Father who draws us all together into one family.
Safe Families for Children is a faith-based community services movement that serves vulnerable, isolated families in crisis situations—some of which may have the potential to lead to abuse and/or neglect. Wrapping a circle of support around these families, we create extended family-like relationships—including a safe home for children to live in temporarily—that give parents space to get their lives back on track until they are in a better place to care for their children again. This network of relationships keeps children from entering the foster care system and, ultimately, helps keep families together.