I had the opportunity to address a gathering of people at the Kauffman Center a few years back who were all involved in Social Entrepreneurship programs at various Colleges and Universities across the country. We were involved in a project that was spear-headed by a group of churches working with some various folks at UMKC (University of Missouri, Kansas City).

I usually speak to church crowds, or at least faith-based crowds but since this was a secular setting with a secular crowd I decided to present a secular value proposition for why the community might want to work with the church. By secular, all I meant was that I would try to present a non-theological rationale for working with the church. And I proceeded…

Even if I were an atheist I would want to work with the church. And here’s why: The church is the largest donor of philanthropic dollars as well as the largest mobilizer of volunteers in the world. No other organization mobilizes and deploys more of these kinds of resources than the church. Not only that, historically speaking, it has always been in the DNA of the church to be the first in and the last to leave in times of crisis and among the most marginalized groups. The church has proven itself to have “staying power.” And finally, there is a church on “every corner,” so to speak, giving us the greatest distribution network in the world. No other organization has been as consistently and effectively invested in emergency relief and individual betterment than the church. But we have come to the end of what relief and betterment can do for us. What if the church could become as good at delivering true development that is sustainable, as we have at relief and betterment? I’m convinced we can and that to the extent that we do, I suspect even atheists might welcome us with grateful hearts and open arms.

As it turned out nobody in the crowd wanted to argue the point. In fact, heads all across the room were nodding in approval. The agreement I saw to this value proposition that day has been confirmed over and over again in my experience. A couple of years later I was addressing a gathering in another part of the country and I used the same argument. After my talk someone waited until I was alone and approached me to say thank-you. “For what?” I asked. “For including me in your talk. I’m one of those atheist’s you mentioned.” We had a wonderful conversation, filled with mutual respect and honest dialogue. We shared a common longing to be an answer to the struggles people have in the here and now. And, with their permission, they let me share how my faith in the hereafter strengthens, informs and compliments what I do to help people in the here and now.

This is how I’ve come to see the proclamation of the gospel. It’s word and deed both coming from a real and genuine place. What we do through Significant Matters is built on this two-fold scaffolding and it’s the common denominator in all we do.


Tom Bassford | Founder/President, Significant Matters

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