I believe this country was founded upon a vision, a godly vision--even though this premise is up for debate in some circles right now. The vision revealed that our nation's pioneers could build their country on their own, working together. Collectively, they built a standard of righteousness, knowing that independence was a blessing from God.

In this day, our national government will begin to see the continuance of that spiritual energy--through faith-based entities. Faith-based organizations are, and will continue to be, an integral part of America's social tapestry. All pastors, church leaders, and religious leaders must pray for their growth, so that our churches are more than just mere buildings, and our people are more than simple parishioners. Together, we are a force pioneering what was started at our country's inception--thus, continuing that great vision.

When the government takes notice of the seeds they have planted in its rich soil, they will be forced to pay close attention to the outstretched arms of thankfulness to faith-based entities.

There are a few points that should be looked at as faith-based organizations grow and develop: First, many churches and nonprofit organizations are ill-informed about how to get and use this money. Pastors and church leaders need to stop assuming all they are allowed to receive is some minuscule blessing, and take what is rightfully theirs as ordained by a Holy God and Blessed Creator who wants us to prosper as we serve Him and His children. As the Bible says in 3 John 2, "Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers." True success in life means being able to develop and utilize every gift that God breathed into us. Faith-based programs are vital and should be the collective voice for the impoverished and undeveloped communities too intimidated or apathetic to open their mouths. It is our task to do what God asks and access every resource available to us.

Many faith-based organizations have youth programs, gang violence prevention, GED programs, and, most important, spiritual leadership and mentoring. A few years ago, my church, the Potter's House in Dallas, launched an organization called the Metroplex Economic Development Corporation, which has its own separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. The church and the development corporation collaborate with a welfare program in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

The private funder of that program, Resources Consultants Inc., requested that a faith-based organization be a part of this endeavor, so that mentoring and spiritual development, as well as job improvement, is offered to each client. Our group is developing a K-12 school, business incubator, senior and youth activities, welfare-to-work program, and prison satellite network, which is a national outreach to inmates to hear the word of God through a three-hour satellite feed. If Potter's House were also awarded federal money for community development, we could assist more people in moving into the mainstream from the welfare rolls. We are just one of many churches taking these strides, but many more are needed to get the job done.

Second, all churches and religious and nonprofit organizations need growth in their volunteer base. Church volunteers get involved with the community, the youth, the poor, and the homeless, and make a difference. We are told in the book of Romans to "present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service." With the unyielding assistance of the volunteer, faith-based entities have the arm they need to reach those struggling to feel someone's touch. This is not simply a willingness to do a specific task, it is a dedication to do whatever God commands. This selfless act of giving time and talent is proof of the rewards of salvation.

Without a vital and thriving volunteer base, and without cost-effective leadership, the most critical emphasis of faith-based entities--the spiritual emphasis--would be nonexistent. Too often, people begin with a source of power that keeps them striving, but then life's pressures quell that drive, that vision. The Bible declares, "where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18). The term "faith-based" mandates that those diligently working under that banner must indeed carry a spiritual emphasis, a vision.

Faith-based networks are definitely on the horizon for America, and these rays of hope shine brightly on the citizenry. My prayer is that we all take advantage of them. Whether you are the pastor of a multifaceted church, or the sole volunteer in a pioneering project, we all have that one irrefutable truth that makes us all the same--faith. Faith in our country to keep us free from oppression. Faith in our resources to keep us economically thriving and socially alive. Faith in our God to keep us pressed toward the upward call. With unquenchable vision, a spiritual emphasis, and the zealous people to carry it out, there is no telling where strategically placed faith-based entities can take us. This encourages us to seize and carry out our destiny, for that is what this country survived for and what it continues to be all about.
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