“Not Everyone is Called to Minister to the Poor.”

Posted in Uncategorized by Stephen Stonestreet on October 21, 2010

My recent book readings — Finding Organic Church by Frank Viola.

This book has really revolutionized my thinking of what church really is, and how we are to begin and continue living out the organic church that we are called to live in and through. Here is one thought came to me just a few moments ago riding home from my local Tim Hortons (its not a coffee shop, friends. It’s a donut shop with coffee — therefore, bad coffee, but the only place I’ve got in this city of Cross Lanes).

I’ve been told several times from local churches leadership something really interesting.

I asked them why the church is not ministering directly to the poor in our area, and why they continue to start programs that just are working within the walls of one building, and within the walls of the people that enter the door.

Then they told me, “Not everyone is “called” to work with the poor. People have different gifts, and we are to live out those different gifts.”

I have always been really upset by that idea, and didn’t have anything really so say back at the time, or I did, and they wouldn’t listen.

I’ve also been told, “That is why we have deacons. Because when the early church was running, Paul appointed 7 people to work with the poor. You know, when Paul was approached and asked, “There are these widows that need help. Why are you not helping them?” And he said, appoint 7 people to work with them.” Therefore, call them deacons, and they will minister to the poor. Nope.

Paul wasn’t saying, “Seven people should minister to the poor directly, not the whole body of Christ.” But he was saying, “My job is here, being an apostle and encouraging the body of Christ to be and live what God has called them to be. Appoint 7 people (not just men, women as well) to help these SPECIFIC widows.” He was putting 7 people in direct connection with these widows, to work with them, have relationship with them, and love them unconditionally, providing them with anything they’d need physically, and giving them the love of Christ and guiding them to healing and to a new life of peace and servanthood to others. 7 specific people. But he wasn’t saying just these 7 to all the poor in that area.

It is a very misunderstood thing, ministry to the poor. When people think of working with the poor, they think of starting a homeless shelter, or picking a random homeless dude up, and letting him live in your house, or other things… I mean, you can very well do these things, and it’s amazing. But thats not ministry to the poor completely.

Here is what ministry to the poor is…

“For I was hungry, and you have me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I need clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

What was said before that —

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”

Matthew 25:34-36

First, when someone needs anything, give it to them. And it isn’t just physical needs. It is spiritual as well. It’s both. I mean, Jesus spoke metaphorically most of the time he was telling people of himself and what they are to do. So when he said, “I give you food. Or I give you water that will take your thirst away for eternity.” He was talking of spiritual needs. But that doesn’t exclude the intentional giving of physical needs. Because one of the biggest things that matters when loving and giving to the poor is starting with physical needs they may have, and then as a result of the love you show them physically and through intentional relationships, they want to know why, and you will give them the spiritual food that lasts forever. And thats the beauty of it.

Most of the time, people haven’t experienced true love, especially in our culture and time. Love that is unconditional, and has nothing to do with the person who is giving love, but everything to do with the person receiving it. And when they experience true love through physical means, then they will understand the love of Christ, because you have shown it to them through what you could give them physically and through relationship.

So, don’t just go out and tell people, “Jesus loves you. You need him. Love him back, and invite him in your heart. Say this prayer with me. If you don’t, you won’t be with him forever :(.” Ridiculous.

But instead, love with actions first, then, when they need it most, show them love through words, words of encouragement, wisdom, love, etc… And then they will ask you, why are you here, and why do you love me so much? And you will say with such grace, gentleness, passion, and possibly with tears in your eyes, “Because God showed me love that has changed my life. And I just want to show you the same love.”

That other part, to finish this all up, where Christ said, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world”… He was saying this before he said the other things that we are supposed to do. I mean, think about it, “take your INHERITANCE the KINGDOM prepared for YOU since the CREATION OF THE WORLD.

Inheritance— Just like Abraham has his inheritance, which was the people of Israel, we have an inheritance with those that we love and direct to Love (Christ).

Kingdom– why would he say this if it didn’t have EVERYTHING to do with what you do for those in need and the love you show to the world.

You— EVERYONE

Before Creation— This was (and IS) our CALLING before time began, to minister to the poor and love the world unconditionally and show them the way.

Get this– Since before time, we were called to live out the Kingdom — by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving water to those who are thirsty, and visiting those who are in prison, or, as James 1:27 says, “Visiting the orphans and the widows.

Come on, get it now? It’s so real, and true, and BEAUTIFUL. God help us.

So, that was all that went through my mind in literally less than a minute in the car, all written out for you to read :)

So what are your thoughts? Comment with them, por favor?

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One Response

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  1. Lisa said, on October 27, 2010 at 12:03 am

    Stephen …
    Great blog! I should admit first that I kinda “stalked” you via the RagamuffinSoul website. You had posted in the comments that you were going to attend the Charleston WV concert … I was too! I hate it that the concert was canceled.

    Anywhoo, I like I see here in this space. This post especially hit home to me .. my husband and I pastor a church on the West Side of Charleston (WV) — it’s a small church and yet every Sunday we open our doors and offer a FREE BREAKFAST to the community. It’s amazing what is happening … this Sunday we had 18 in “worship” and 88 people eat with us. There are no strings, no conditions to be met in order to eat a meal. We just offer and they come. (I wrote a series about serving this community on my blog, these posts are labeled Ministry: 5 Senses … )

    I guess I’m rambling enough to say, your words resonate with me & our place of service. Keep thinking these thoughts, they are a welcome encouragement in the midst of “American Church Culture.”


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