The church is a community of faith. As such, she seeks to preserve, promote and pass on a body of convictions and practices, and model the character of the kingdom of God.
And faith involves affirmation, trust and service.
The church and worship centers are an integral part of the story of America. This is especially true during times of strong economic pressures.
What can the church do now? Here are four ideas:
• Help people find their strongest security in their spirits when connected with God's.
• Teach the clear biblical guidelines about money.
• Help our people in need.
• Give to local, national and international poverty needs.
Connecting with God
Any distress or disaster calls for spiritual confidence, strength from our Lord. There is a clear way to be sure of that and it is not haphazard.
We teach people spiritual disciplines for dealing creatively with pressure: the power of prayer, meditation, exercise and trust.
We do believe the abiding need for all of us is to know where basic satisfaction originates. All of us know people who handle financial (and other) pain very well — with growth and spiritual strength — when they are attached to God by faith.
Any focus of the rich or the poor on only material goods will not bring what our Lord calls true peace or joy. Such true needs are often missed.
Without trying to disturb what these articles have called ''the American Dream,'' we teach that there is a higher plan. It has been revealed by God and it clearly helps us navigate the many valleys of life.
Guidelines for money
Instead of a ''health and wealth'' emphasis, the Bible clarifies huge, sometimes unpopular concepts:
• Ultimately all possessions belong to God. If we refuse that, we should think about it again in 100 years.
• We are called to honor God with gifts to help others with support to ministries and charities. This is clear to believers.
• Everyone who can should work to provide his own needs. Laziness never qualifies for aid in Scriptures. Need does.
• We can and do affirm the dignity of work, a primary source of pride and community building.
• We should live within our means.
• We should not covet what belongs to others.
Without hesitancy, Scripture writers call churches to ''care for their own.'' So most churches, including ours, have a clear way to aid those in deep financial need.
One of the reasons the church at large sometimes only can teach and befriend the ''shrinking middle class,'' as this newspaper calls them often, is that more urgent needs are with the more needy.
That's pretty plain.
This is not to minimize the pain or the frustration of those who are losing ground, but to admit our source book, the Bible, is very clear about helping the poor.
We also feel our responsibility to our people and others who seek help, to know about resources. Our churches provide financial counseling, budget education, emotional and spiritual guidance, and in some cases financial gifts.
The church also directs and even accompanies people to some of the social and benevolence agencies that minister to so many.
We call upon those to whom much is given to share their good fortune with those of less means and to establish opportunities for the others to experience an improvement in their quality of life.
Constantly we serve as a stimulus and conduit for providing volunteers for community-oriented efforts. Churches have many involved in other ways of helping people.
Many find courage and spiritual strength to face the pain of an uncertain economy.
The church has usually been first and faithful and swifter than many government agencies in assisting in Katrina-type disasters here and Sudan-type needs overseas.
In one of the Beacon articles about troubles today, Akron historian George W. Knepper noted that in the true recession of the 1930s, ''the whole society had to adjust.'' His contrast to today was that many are ''living high on the hog'' while others ''are in desperate straits.'' Curbing the human appetite for things is not a painless exercise. But it produces a necessary and great result — contentment.
Our continuing call as spiritual leaders linked to our Lord Christ is to encourage voluntary generosity and sharing.
We are grateful and challenged!
Ronald J. Fowler is senior pastor at the Arlington Church of God.
Knute Larson is co-pastor of The Chapel in Akron and Green.
Together they helped to begin the ministries Allies and Love Akron.