Adam Northcroft
Christians! This country needs your love and care

The church in the UK has an incredible record when it comes to helping the poor and the needy. Many probably don't realise the real and lasting impact it has had over the generations.

Just think of William Wilberforce and his monumental 30-year fight to ban slavery or Elizabeth Fry and the transformation of prisons, or Florence Nightingale and her impact on hospitals. Alternatively you could point to the 19th Century evangelical reformers who stopped the practice of forcing young children inside chimneys to clean them, or who pushed for better public health laws as well as improved conditions in mines and factories. They also cared for those locked away in mental asylums.

After them you might think of General Booth and the work of the Salvation Army radically tackling poverty and alcoholism. And then you could ponder George Muller and the way he provided for 10,000 orphans in Bristol, or the Cadbury family and its promotion of workers' housing and welfare. The list goes on and on.

This record is rightly something to be proud of and few could deny the provision of care and improved conditions in the UK has been hugely shaped and influenced by the contribution of Christians down the ages.

However, let's not imagine this work is now finished.

Britain in the 21st Century faces the challenge of major Government budget cuts and the consequent fall in state-sponsored care for the ill, the elderly and the vulnerable. Meanwhile addiction, poor mental health and poverty are on the rise. The Citizens' Advice Bureau, itself hit by funding cuts, has been forced to reduce its presence in the UK and has already reported many in times of trouble now don't know where to turn.

The church is responding with a range of initiatives. Three obvious examples are the Trussell Trust's Food Bank initiative, the CAP Money Course to help those with financial trouble as well as the Recovery Course for those caught up in addiction.

We need to remember Jesus' command to care for the poor and love the unlovely without expecting their thanks or reward. Indeed the parable of the Good Samaritan shows we may well have to pay for this from our own pockets as well.

As time goes on, it seems likely the church will need to step up and help people in a way and on a scale that it hasn't been used to over recent decades. We need to do it because God tells us to and because we want to help others while making Jesus and his love known - this is what drove the reformers of old. Jesus in turn has promised to be with us and help us through the power of his Spirit.

So, are we up for this? Christians in this country are connected to a long line of believers that have been prepared to take on these challenges. We need to do the same.