Emergency Pray-Care-Share (PCS) in Action - A True Story
Sherry Buresh, Church Advisor, shared this PCS story from their Hurricane Gustav operational response:
“Ben was a local volunteer who worked alongside one of our teams. He’d lost everything himself, but he didn’t care; he just wanted to help others. After spending the day with us caring for families, he pulled a volunteer (John) aside because he needed to talk to him. He told John that he loved working with us but needed to admit something that may change our mind on letting him be a part of our disaster team. He was reluctant to tell us because he really enjoyed working with us.
He told John that he was not a Christian; as a matter of fact, he was an atheist and always had been. He did not believe there was a God. As John talked to him and let him know we would not turn him away, the man started crying and said he had been having a strong feeling that he needed to go to a church. He said he didn’t understand “why”, because it was against his belief. He couldn’t understand the feeling because, to him, there was no God. John continued witnessing to him and telling him about God.
After a period of time, the man agreed to allow John to pray with him. The two ended up on their knees in prayer (right there in the middle of the disaster area), and through sobs, he prayed with John for salvation. Right then and there, he accepted God as his Lord and Savior!! John said they hugged and cried like two little babies. John told him through tears and a joyous laughter he now serves an amazing God that, at times, works in mysterious ways. The man attended church that Sunday and is still following that path to this day.”
Sharing our faith in prayer, acts of kindness and offering the words of the Gospel clearly is an act of love, not of judgment or criticism. In this case, the most loving thing for John to do was to share his testimony. To do so, John had to be ready - ready to pray, to care AND to share. John was ready to give an answer for the hope he had in Christ. When he was called on to give an answer, he was trained spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically to glorify God in the way he was designed. If we have a teachable, moldable, and humble spirit, we will be made ready for “such a time as a crisis” where others will be asking: Where is God in this? As we can see here, even atheists can be prompted by God. To give the answer, we must ready ourselves ahead of time.
Lifestyle Evangelism Basics
Prayer-Care-Share (PCS) promotes a relational evangelism lifestyle in which Christians take responsibility for witnessing to their friends and neighbors in three ways:
Prayer – to ask God for opportunities to give a testimony.
Care – to reach out and meet the needs of others as God leads.
Share – to explain one’s relationship with Jesus Christ and his offer of salvation when the right circumstance presents itself, and be prepared to lead the person into a relationship with Jesus.
Unlike other evangelism approaches, PCS encourages Christians to be obedient to God's leading by first investing the time to build a relationship with others. Prayer makes the Christian aware of people that God is directing them to be cared for. As one cares for them, they become receptive to what the Christian has to share about Jesus Christ.
The PCS lifestyle is valuable in emergencies in which people are already receptive to hearing about Jesus. In emergencies, the Christian who is ready to pray, care and share may be (more than at any other time) able to meet needs and lead people into a relationship with Jesus. CEN Chapters train Christians in a Prayer-Care-Share lifestyle so that they are ready and focused on the best ways to share Christ when the time is right.
CEN has provided an article in the downloaded materials called, “When is Sharing Christ Appropriate” to answer some of the questions and legal issues surrounding sharing Christ in times of disaster.
The Church Emergency Team (CET)/Pray-Care-Share (PCS) Process:
Before you begin, bring the church up to speed on how your Church Emergency Team (CET) is working on a Ministry Continuity Plan (MCP) and Emergency Operations Plan (EOP). You can do this by:
Presenting the plan for congregation review and agreement
Presenting the key points of the plan to leadership and in ministry meetings
Ratifying the plan and calling members to participate in implementing the plan
When a CET Ministry Continuity Plan (MCP) and Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) are in place, you will be ready to recruit members to volunteer for the Pray-Care-Share Teams.
In selecting your CET/PCS Team members, it is important that they understand the principles of praying, caring and sharing Christ are generally the same whether someone is facing an identifiable crisis or not. If you think about it, anyone with a spiritual need, apart from Christ, is in a personal crisis of some variety. The transformation process is really one big personal crisis, whether it surfaces within a disaster or any other upheaval of life. Tragedies need to be prayerfully, carefully and sensitively always brought back to one’s personal relationship with Jesus Christ. When your CET/PCS leaders already understand and apply these principles sequentially and consistently, you will build the models for your church to grow in emergencies of all kinds.
A good starting place to locate your potential CET/PCS Team is found in existing programs already offered in your church; such as prayer ministry leaders, compassionate care leaders, and outreach ministries of all kinds which clearly present the Gospel as a part of the ministry. These ministry leaders may already have the skills and gifts needed to lead the emergency focus as well or refer to those within their ministry group who would have the heart and passion for emergency CET/PCS Team.
Church Emergency Team Prayer-Care-Share (PCS) Basic Training
The key success factor in implementing PCS Teams is learning how to implement the principles of Pray- Care-Share (PCS) as part of the everyday lifestyle of your church before an emergency occurs. It is the familiar well-cultivated habits of a biblical PCS response that will surface in any emergency large or small. Your church emergency PCS plan offers the steps your church will take in this area so that all elements of your ministry are seamless in delivery. When you draft the PCS part of your plans you will know who will do what by when to ensure your mission is achieved. Training the PCS Team in how to use your two plans is essential for them to respond quickly to emergencies both large and small.
The Emergency Pray-Care-Share approach cultivates a faith-sharing lifestyle in which Christians take spiritual leadership responsibility for their friends and neighbors. Clearly according to the book of Matthew
– this is our responsibility. To assist your church in developing a Pray-Care-Share lifestyle, “Lighting the Way” (available in downloaded material) trains Christians on the practical skills of how to meet believers and non-believers at a point of need and guide them into recovery and spiritual restoration. Participants will learn the basics:
How to pray for others and how to discern what God is doing
How to find the right place and time to care for their needs
How to ask for the chance to share Christ and what to say
How to track their growth in lifestyle faith-sharing using Engel’s scale
Emergency PCS encourages Christians to invest the time to build a relationship by praying first, according to Acts 1:8, caring and then sharing.
Beginning with prayer, the Christian becomes aware of people that God is directing them to and of their needs. As the Christian cares for them, they become receptive to hearing about Jesus Christ. When prompted by God, the Christian earns an opportunity to share their story and give the person a chance to follow Christ. This process may take months or in some cases years; as responders know, relationships you cultivate in spiritual crisis are enduring.
PCS Team leaders along with ReadyChristians learn about the recovery programs, support groups and ministry opportunities available in their community that they can then share with people in need.
In an incident then, your PCS Officers are sharing Christ in effective and transforming ways. They assist with church events geared toward survivors where the Gospel is clearly presented and where assimilation in the church is sustained.
By taking the time to strengthen the Emergency PCS ministry leadership of your church, your emergency response will be a conduit for others to view your church as the Lighthouse survivors seek.
After 911, while many flocked to the churches in droves, within six to eight weeks 80% were walking out the back door.
The churches were not ready for such an influx; their CET/PCS Teams were not in place, and they were not focused upon the recovery of the survivors as their congregations became altered. In his first letter, Timothy reminds us to be ready to give an answer for the hope of Christ within. ReadyChristians led by CET/PCS Teams who are equipped to guide and lead in an emergency fulfills Timothy’s directive.
In emergencies, the CET/PCS Team and the preparation of their groups pay off. Instead of wondering what to do, ReadyChristians provide a complete response to crisis and find numerous opportunities to lead people into a new life with Christ.
We encourage you to take a moment and read the Article “Gospel 911” in the downloaded material. This article provides insight into how to approach people in crisis to share with them the hope that you have in Christ.
Church Emergency Team (CET)/Emergency Pray-Care-Share (PCS) Team Set-up
When emergencies happen in the community, the ReadyChurch is prepared to respond in three ways:
- Prayer - praying for those in crisis and disaster, responding to requests for one-on-one prayer, and calling others to pray.
- Care - reaching out to meet physical and emotional needs by giving comfort, shelter, food, distributing supplies, offering clean-up services, baby-sitting, and much more.
- Share - counseling (grief and spiritual), worship and praise events where the Gospel is clearly presented, assimilation of survivors, discipleship of new believers and more.
Each church must prepare to give this response in advance. Some of these activities may require professional training or certification such as counseling services. It is likely members in your church already have the needed capacity. Doctors and nurses, government employees, teachers and administrators, social workers, police and fire personnel all have professional training that can be included in your response plan. Your church already offers many services on a weekly basis which can be made available such as child care, recovery programs, and other support groups. These can all be included as part of your emergency response plan.
Keep in mind, as you are training your CET/PCS Team that an effective response to any emergency comes from what is already a part of daily life. So if your church is used to providing babysitting services, then those activities should simply be expanded. It is best to focus upon the strengths of how your church is already praying, caring and sharing in your community to discover what areas to strengthen with an emergency perspective. This is NOT the time to be starting anything new. The goal of this phase is to identify what you are already doing and expand those activities.
The Church Emergency Team (CET) is responsible to assess the capabilities of the church and the needs of the surrounding community. This was done in the Church Capacity Assessment section and as a part of the Church Safety and Security and the Emergency Operations Plan (EOP).
All of the functions of the CET should be divided up and assigned to the responsibility of one of these following three teams: The emergency Prayer Team, emergency Care Team and emergency Share Team. These teams will help the CET develop and maintain a community focus and a capability to fulfill the mission of the local church.
Steps to Develop Prayer-Care-Share Teams
Step 1: CET to identify and recruit Emergency PCS Team leaders who are already actively engaged in church and community Emergency PCS and to expand existing efforts to include an emergency focus. If a church does not have an Emergency Pray-Care-Share Team leader, then those who have been identified
as gifted and called to these ministries within the local church should be trained using materials such as: Emergency Pray-Care- Share Basics, The Prayer Saturated Church (Prayer) by Cheryl Sacks, the Stephen’s Ministry (Care) guidebook, and Lighting the Way (Pray-Care-Share) guidebook by Mary Marr. These resources will help you develop an Emergency Pray-Care-Share focus in your church - the basis for your biblical, emergency response.
Step 2: CET to provide Emergency PCS Team training for emergency responses within the church so that the church may best respond to the spiritual, emotional, mental or physical needs of its members in crisis or the community at large within the ReadyChurch response area. Any response in the church always begins with prayer, followed by transformational acts of caring as found in Ephesians 4 to be salt and light, as well as by giving an answer for the hope of Christ found in Timothy.
Step 3: CET to plan Emergency PCS Team response for all types of emergencies using methods common to its existing ministries to ensure volunteer back-ups and rotation of leadership to avoid burn out during incidents. By using your church Biblical Readiness Assessment results, your Emergency Pray-Care-Share leaders will determine where the weak areas are and then develop the plans needed to strengthen them. When in an active response, Emergency PCS Team leaders ensure your online church response group has updated prayer prompts for your congregation to keep responding; it also posts needs from the Care Team and it provides ways you can share your hope in Christ with survivors.
Step 4: CET Emergency PCS Team to provide strategic resources so the church will use effective and timely crisis-survivor resources such as Together We Will Stand response guide for ReadyChristiansSM who are praying, caring and sharing Christ with family members and friends in crisis.
Step 5: CET Emergency PCS Team to ensure the church celebrates the many ways your church is praying, caring and sharing Christ in and through the crisis.
Step 6: CET PCS Teams to guide in emergency PCS initiatives such as “Prayer Cans” placed strategically around your business community for the opportunity to pray for someone by name. Encourage those in need to connect with your church so the Care and Share Teams can follow up with them.
Step 7: CET PCS to ensure survivors are ministered to beginning with prayer so that everyone is responded to with prayer, care and share-all three. Share Teams are a part of both the initial and ongoing stages of the survivor response. Your Public Information Officer will either act as your Emergency Prayer Team leader or work closely with him, focusing your whole church with timely effective and accurate prayer prompts.
Step 8: CET to conduct Emergency PCS Team response drills to ensure ease of response within the church and with other local churches within the local CEN ReadyCity.
Gospel 911 – Understanding the Crisis
The biggest emergency for the Church is that Christians do not know how to share their faith appropriately in crisis. Our job as Christians in crisis is to be strong in Christ, not weak. We have hope in God through Christ Our Lord and we are His ambassadors to a needy world. Our work will be rewarded if we trust in God for our reward, not insisting upon earthly rewards on our own terms. God uses circumstances like emergencies of all kinds to manifest his care and love for each of us. We need to put away other idols or distractions of time and priority to focus on what is important to Him - bringing His children safely home.
The good news is that you know a lot more than you think you do about how to pray, care and share. You just need to understand the crisis and understand the opportunity:
Understand the Crisis - “The bridge is burning and there is nowhere to go and no turning back!”
Often, survivors of crises will say, "This is more than I can handle!" and, Where do I get help?" Ninety percent (90%) will ask, “Where is God in this?” But what do you do and say when someone’s bridge is burning? Remember how Elijah asked God, "Where are you in this?" Elijah knew that God had the answer even when He seemed nowhere to be found. We all need to ask Him to make sense out of our crisis. Just as Job 7:19-20 and Jeremiah 20:7 shows us, God will make clear the path in the midst of pain and confusion, but we must ask.
Ask for help? According to the International Critical Incident Foundation, a 2001 report showed that 59% of trauma victims are likely to seek assistance from a trusted friend or clergy, as compared to 45% from a physician or counselor. You are that trusted friend! Why? You have a trusted friend, Jesus, at your side.
There are three typical responses before those in crisis ask for help: denial, resistance, and acceptance. To cope with crisis requires acceptance. In order to soar above crisis and experience renewal, it is essential to learn what God wants us to learn or we will endure more pain. God wants us to learn trust. He will do whatever it takes to teach us. When we learn it, he has promised he will always show us a way through the pain.
Those who respond with acceptance recover more completely and help others more passionately. How do we as followers of Christ live in acceptance of whatever the circumstance? How do we move others to a point of acceptance? Through PCS.
Christian took his job as a Christian seriously and prayed, cared and shared with a neighbor in crisis. The neighbor had just come to the U.S. from Albania and four weeks later her new husband committed suicide. She could not go back to Albania. She could not speak English and express her grief, get a job or deal with her affairs. Christian prayed for her by name, cared for her with tangible loving visits, used his English as a Second Language (ESL) experience and taught her English, grieved with her, and helped her find a job in another state where the woman accepted Christ in a Messianic Jewish church within four months. As tough as it may seem, the crisis was also an opportunity; an opportunity to PCS. It was an Albanian women's chance, far from home, to find her Savior. Emergency PCS in action!
Understand the Opportunity
God uses calamity to bring the focus on Him. It is a last resort for God after trying all other ways, lovingly, patiently, to bring us back into relationship. It is a severe mercy, but wise Christians understand and are able to help others understand from personal experience and numerous examples in the Bible how faith can triumph over great tragedy and lead to a fulfilling relationship with God. Even in very large disasters, crises are personal to each individual involved. Our Lord is in the heart-healing business and we are his hands and feet. God understands heartbreak. Bad people crucified His Son. Heart emergencies need godly heart experts. What do heart experts know?
The heart surgery process brought on by a crisis is similar no matter what the crisis. When Elijah faced his crisis, he knew that he first needed rest. Elijah fell asleep and actually isolated himself and only then he sought God’s whisper of Hope. He found a friend in Elisha and God cared for him by giving him food and shelter. Elijah was instructed by God to not get stuck in his own recovery but to help others. Then he got busy himself to help others, not himself …..it was only then true Hope resided in his own heart to share the Good News with others. (I Kings 19)
Wallowing in self-pity and helplessness will delay any recovery. People who are in crisis often have confused thinking and are vulnerable to what they are being told, whether it is to sit down or fall down. When those in crisis turn to God they put their eyes on Him and others, and off themselves. It is not a time to trivialize their weaknesses but to celebrate their admission of weakness. That is the first step to healing and walking with God forever.
The pain of any crisis makes our defenses lower and it gets our attention in every area of life - spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically. Pain forces us to admit "need," including our need for God.
Just think of it, why do people call 911 when they are in trouble? They think someone will hear their plea. They hope they will help. They want a solution to their problem. And, they know that someone is trained, willing, able, and ready to help the instant they call.
It is like that when people are in crisis. The Bible says: “Please God, rescue me! Come quickly, Lord and help me. Please hurry to my aid, O God. You are my helper and my savior. O Lord do not delay.” Psalm 70:1,5.
God will rescue the poor and needy. We do not have to wonder IF He will. He will when they cry out to Him. “But how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” Romans 10:14 As Christians, and as disciples, we are all the priesthood of believers, the ones who must share when those in crisis cry out for more than their physical needs to be met. When they are hurting, confused and hopeless who will lift them up?
God will use the trials, tragedies and heartache to develop the character and strength of a victim if he will allow Him to do so. Trials and tragedy come to all people, both good and bad people.
There are things God allows that He does not desire or directly cause – like allowing free-will. Some choose wrongly which results in more pain. With Christ tragedies become triumphs.
"Where is God in this?" is a common reaction to emergencies of all kinds from Christians as well as seekers. Whether it is vast loss of life or a personal emergency, all emergencies are big to someone.
How do we as Christians, share the Hope that is within us in these moments?
While each emergency (whether personal, community-wide or national in scope) is unique, each was not predicted and demands a tailored response. However, there are three basic principles that remain the same no matter what the incident. It is not as simple as merely a prayer and a well-intentioned and heart-felt caring action; the response is not done until the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical life has found victory.
Why Pray - Care - Share? It is what Jesus did every time he faced a person in need. He first asked His Father for guidance, then He acted upon what He was told to DO, then He never failed to direct the recipient of His love to His Father alone.
Lighting the Way in Disasters
In order to effectively pray/care/share within disaster settings, it is helpful to understand the five distinct phases of any disaster or personal emergency. There are specific victim needs during each phase and their ability to respond varies from phase to phase.
The first phase is the “Acute” phase. During the acute phase the disaster/emergency is still unfolding. It is wise to assist first responders, pray for them and support their efforts as much as possible.
The second phase is called the “Heroic” phase, which is what it sounds like, people are doing heroic things such as rescuing people. Often it is victims helping victims, neighbors helping neighbors.
The third phase is called the “Honeymoon” phase. During this phase people are responding from all over the country to come and help. It is a honeymoon phase because all of these people have come to help and it gives assurance to victims everything will be all right.
The fourth phase is referred to as the “Disillusionment” phase. The longer the recovery takes the more impatient victims become. They still don’t have power; they can’t get back in their homes; they are waiting for vouchers, etc. Tempers tend to be short, and normally courteous people can get kind of surly.
The last phase is generally referred to as the “Reconstruction/renewal” phase. After what can sometimes be a long disillusionment phase, things are starting to come together. Debris is cleared away; buildings are being rebuilt, routines resuming, and people are returning to a “new normal” life.
“Lighting the Way” helps you to apply the Prayer/Care/Share principles in everyday situations with family and friends and may also be used in a disaster context to share with victims in all five phases and over a long term “Reconstruction/renewal/recovery” process.
Who is searching for God? a common question asked by those facing crisis. People will either move closer to Him or further away. 1 Timothy 2:1-8 explains that we must first pray for people and plead for mercy upon them while giving thanks to God for their lives. We must pray for peace, quiet and godly lives and that all men will seek Him, be saved and understand the truth of the Gospel. “For there is only One God, and one Mediator who can reconcile God and people; He is the man Christ Jesus.”
Pray for compassion and understanding of those you encounter who are different than you. Pray for empathy, so that those who are victimized will understand that you are truly there for them during their time of need.
Ask the Holy Spirit to fill your being with strength before going out into the field. Pray for courage, insight, boldness, and perseverance. Acts 1:8
Marr says: “Prayer is not me motivating God to save my family member or friend; it is me being motivated to do my part.”
I like to use the image of a radio when talking about prayer. Prayer tunes us into God. God’s signal is always present, but we aren’t always tuned into it, and may in fact, be tuned into something else entirely. To be prepared for emergencies and disasters we need to be tuned into God. Be spiritually prepared.
Pray for the victims. Often if you visit someone’s bedside in a hospital Christians will come and pray for them. Do not forget to pray also for those in the same room who you may not know.
Pray that they feel the presence of Christ in the darkness they are going through. Pray that God will guide them and give them strength to deal with the crisis at hand. Pray God will give them wisdom to make the right decisions in the aftermath.
The first step and continual step in our response is PRAYER.
Pray that God gives you the patience to listen to what a victim needs, and for the strength to support them.
Where is God in all of this? Why did God allow this to happen? These questions are often posed in the early phases of a disaster. As Christian care-givers, what people really need at this stage is for someone to truly listen without feeling a need to say something or try and “correct” what a victim is saying. It is important to let them vent. This is called cathartic ventilation. They may be angry at God, and that’s Ok. God has broad shoulders. In the aftermath of a disaster people are searching for help, and also searching for answers. It is our job to support them, and graciously listen to them. It is in this caring phase that spiritual transformation initially takes place. People do not care about what you know until they know how much you care for them. It is a defining moment that will either foster a grateful memory or more pain.
If in the early phase of the emergency/disaster, offer them water, show them where they can get a meal; a shower; take them to someone who can offer shelter. You must meet their physical needs following a disaster/emergency prior to anything else.
Carefully listen to their story and withhold judgment. Be attentive to their needs.
Where can God use me? Before you go to assist at the location of the disaster/emergency, pray that God can use you to be His light to the world for those you will encounter. All caring gestures are important no matter how humble the task. Because God does put people in our path in order that we might minister to them. 1Timothy 2:1-8
Carry a small notebook and gather names of people you have encountered throughout the day, put their name in a book so that these people can be prayed for at the end of each day or as a reminder of how you can help them specifically and where they are located. (It is important to keep names confidential and to dispose of the peoples’ names when you are done.) Specifically, pray that God use you as a beacon of light, love, and hope and that you recognize the people He has put in your path that you are called upon to minister to on that day.
If you see someone picking through the rubble of what used to be their home, help them in some way. Help them look for pictures and precious heirlooms. If they are sitting quietly on a curb with their head in their hands, simply sit with them…if appropriate give them a gentle pat on the back to let them know that you are with them and there for them.
In responding to disasters and emergencies, it is important to pray for courage, calm, and confidence. The people you encounter will be stressed in a variety of ways. They may be sad; they may be angry; they may be in the pit of despair. They may be despondent or in emotional turmoil. It is our job to provide a caring calm, ministry of presence, a lighthouse beacon of light to those being tossed about on stormy personal seas.
“God gives us courage beyond ourselves. Total heart abandonment to God is the key. When we exhibit the peace that passes all understanding the world sits up and takes notice”, says Mary Marr. God is the strength beyond our strength in any crisis that enables us to provide the calm that is needed by victims. Acts 1:8
If someone that you encounter asks who you are, why you are doing what you do simply tell them that God has prompted you to help. Keep it simple, and follow their lead.
Hearing the story of someone you encounter may bring something painful in your past to the surface, and it is okay to share from your own pain in order to help them share theirs. But the difference is, you have Jesus on whom to rest, and draw strength. Make your experience clear and concise.
I am a firm believer in having identifiers when at a disaster site because it is a sensitive way to share our faith and allows someone to approach us with their questions. Identifiers are items such as a shirt that identifies your faith organization name, a chaplain’s vest, or a cross. These identifiers indicate to people you are a person that they may talk about faith issues with openly. It also helps first responders to guide people they cannot help in these matters effectively.
Share your own testimony when asked from a first person perspective which can be very encouraging to people in crisis. It often helps them open up to share their journey.
If they have their doubts, do not correct them. Let them have their doubts and support them still in their personal struggle. How you act in being non-judgmental is a far more powerful witness than what you may say.
They may not respond right away, but many will come back and explain how you have helped them, how they want to help others, and how the only way to do that is Jesus.
Build a relationship with those you are serving and you will have ample opportunities to be the one with the answer when asked, “Where is God in this?”
When is Sharing Christ Appropriate?
Understanding biblical response is one of the key ways that CEN maximizes the capacity of Christians to respond. There is a time and a place for sharing your faith. While it is important to give an answer for the Hope of Christ within, it is also important to know how and when to do that best, sometimes with or without words. It is never appropriate for Christians to use disasters to proselytize (i.e. to "make converts"). Damage can be done. To be effective, Christians need to understand when sharing is appropriate and how to keep the roles and priorities straight.
Once the acute physical danger of an emergency passes and survivors begin to question, “Why me, God? Why did you let this happen? Where are you God?” the Ready Christian is prepared to give testimony of God’s grace and plan for each person’s life. Does this mean the Christian is ‘taking advantage’ of an emergency to ‘proselytize"? Not at all. Not any more than if the caregiver was an atheist, and when asked, said, "This is an accident for which there is no explanation. God did not do this to you because there is no God."
However, because Christians have a mandate to make disciples, they need training to give the right kind of support in emergencies while preserving their unique ability to share the Hope of Christ and pursue the Christian mission. The atheist will not be accused of trying to convert someone and be excluded from helping, even if the atheist is sharing his beliefs. The Christian must learn how to be a help in emergency operations, and know the right time and place to offer the hope and comfort a trained biblical response can provide.
After 9/11 something quite unexpected happened. The government sponsored grief counselors who ended up going home after two weeks for lack of work. In contrast, a counseling center sponsored by an inter-faith agency had a line snaking around the corner for two blocks. Although proselytizing or holding religious services is prohibited during government-sponsored emergency efforts, it is part of the training of Federal Emergency Managers to look to the church to calm people during a crisis. Following Hurricanes Ike and Gustav, religious leaders were dispatched to reassure local ethnic groups that they were going to be looked after by FEMA.
So, where do Christians draw the line? What is appropriate? At what point do you go from giving aid to presenting a case for Christ and the need for eternal life? Can you even do that? When and how is faith- sharing appropriate? In which places and situations is overt evangelism or 'sharing your faith' inappropriate? From a legal standpoint, certain criteria distinguish legitimate evangelization from illicit proselytism:
- All humans have the right to have religious beliefs, and to change these beliefs, even repeatedly, if they so wish. (Freedom of Religion)
- They have the right to form religious organizations for the purpose of worship, as well as for promoting their cause. (Freedom of Association)
- They have the right to speak to others about their convictions, with the purpose of influencing the others. (Freedom of Speech)
By the same token, these very rights exercise a limiting influence on the freedoms of others. For instance, the right to have religious beliefs presumably includes the right not to be coerced into changing these beliefs by threats, discrimination, or similar inducements.
Hence a category of improper proselytizing can be discerned.
It would not be proper to use coercion, threats, or the weight of authority of the educational system, access to health care or similar facilities in order to induce people to change their religion.
- It would be improper to try to impose one's beliefs on a 'captive audience,' where the listeners have no choice but to be present. This would presumably require restraint in the exercise of their right to free speech, by teachers in the classroom, army officers to their inferiors, prison officers in prison, medical staff in hospitals, so as to avoid impinging on the rights of others.
- It would not be proper to offer money, work, housing or other material inducements as a means of persuading people to adopt another religion.
Federal rules require that religious organizations separate their federally funded services from their religious services to avoid improper proselytizing. This is done in two ways:
- Different place - deliver emergency services in a place that is not used for religious purposes
- Different time - deliver emergency services at a different time than religious services A couple things you can always do:
- You can always do whatever you want as long as you are on private property.
- It is appropriate to invite people to a discussion about God or to religious services or events at another time and or place as long as they are not required to go.
It all comes down to being ready. We cannot control the time or place that someone will be open to listen, but we can control being personally prepared to answer and take advantage of every situation to share the Gospel.