WHY THE CHURCH? (guest blog with Compassion Canada President/CEO Barry Slauenwhite)

One of the key foundational principles upon which Compassion is built is our strong commitment to the local church. We are Christ-centeredChild-focusedChurch-based with over 6,500 Compassion child development centers all in partnership with local churches. I’m often ask why we work exclusively with the church. My answer requires a bit of history and context.

Matthew 16: 18, 19 “I will build my church…”

The church (Ecclesia) was born 2000 years ago. Near the end of His 40 days with them Jesus gave the “Great Commission” to His disciples. Then he said “wait in Jerusalem”, don’t embark on the Great Commission just yet. Wait until the Holy Spirit comes upon you. This will mark the birth of the church. The same people who had been called the 12 were now called “The Church”. They were no longer 12 or 120 individual followers of Jesus… but a vibrant kingdom community entrusted with the great commission.

I find it intriguing that the key stakeholders of this early church were not the elite but the poor, the mistreated and children. The very people that were invisible to society at large are now the owners of this new enterprise. This new church became a safe place for the unloved. A place where they were accepted and valued. A place where there is no rank or ethnicity. This was in shocking contrast to society. Here nobleman and slave come together and call each other brothers. A radical departure from current culture.

This new church quickly sprang into action going against the tide of society. This new church was characterized by how they cared for the widow and the orphan, their love and compassion and their willingness to put their words into action.

The church built the first hospitals. Before Christians established hospitals it was common practice for sick people to be put to death. Today the church is the largest single provider of healthcare in history.

In AD-361 the Roman Emperor “Julian the Apostate” was so enraged by these Christians that he directed that hospitals be established in every city in his kingdom and funded by the state to rival the work being done by the Christians.

The church was the first to stand up for the rights of children. The church established education systems and educates more children than any other institution. 100 of the first 110 universities in the USA were founded as Christian institutions; Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth to name just a few. The college system as we know it was founded by the church.

Today the church is stronger than ever and continues to impact every corner of the world. Over five million local churches exist around the world and they are instruments of change; doing what governments could never do. The church is the largest charitable organization on earth bringing relief and comfort to those in need and almost always the first responders in times of disaster.

Photo credit: chris zerbes / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

The church has only one mission – to make disciples. Making disciples includes ministry to the poor and engaging in social justice. Too often we think discipleship is teaching people how to study the bible and take their place as contributing members of the church. Christ’s directive to make disciples is much more comprehensive and addresses all aspects of live.

The disciple-making process is holistic in nature. Jesus did not commission the church to eradicate poverty; He did ask the church to make disciples. But through the disciple-making process, poverty should be eradicated as the Kingdom of God is advanced (Acts 4:34).

An old African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Similarly true, it takes a church to make a true disciple of Christ. The Great Commission to make disciples was not given to individual Christians; it is the work of the Holy Spirit through the church. An individual Christian may be able to lead a person to accept Jesus Christ as Savior, but it will take the church – the community of Christ, the family of God – to make a true disciple. One Christian may be able to help other Christians grow in their spiritual journey, but an effective and holistic disciple-making process best occurs in the context of a community of disciples – the church.

For whatever reason, God has chosen the church to be His instrument in redeeming His creation.
If we ignore the church we risk missing God’s strategy for redeeming the world! The Church is the only institution established by God. The church is God’s plan “A” for advancing his kingdom… there is no Plan “B”. All parachurch organizations were created by Man (Para = alongside) and exist to compliment the church.

It is with this understanding that Compassion recognizes that our primary purpose for existing is to serve and empower the local church. At Compassion we believe that the church is the great hope of the world. To do this, the church has a simple strategy: the comprehensive and holistic disciple-making process.

In our core values Compassion states, “the church is the great hope for the world and is God’s instrument to advance the kingdom of God” We believe the local church is the best vehicle for human and societal development. Why so many Christian development organizations ignore the church is a mystery. Whatever our mission strategies they must include the church.

Compassion doesn’t work through the church. Rather, we work with the church. The church is our partner, not a tool for us to use. Working with the church is more than a strategy — we believe there really is no other choice.

The church is not part of our marketing strategy. We are part of the church’s mission strategy.
Our first prophetic calling is to the church. The church doesn’t exist to help us achieve our mission. The church is our mission.

By being a Compassion sponsor you are fulfilling both the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. You are a missionary to a child. An agent of God’s love. You are fulfilling God’s command to go into all the world and share the gospel and you are loving your neighbor as yourself.

Barry Slauenwhite

President/CEO Compassion Canada


During Barry’s 30 years in leadership with Compassion Canada—20 as President and CEO—Compassion has become the leading international child development ministry. During his time as President, Compassion experienced a tenfold growth in revenue and in child sponsorship while maintaining its unique ministry focus of being Christ centered, child focused and church based.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.