The preacher was a gifted speaker whose heart was clearly loving and open to the most difficult problems. He had great affection for the congregation and the community in which they lived. One Sunday he spoke from his heart about a dilemma he felt with great sorrow. With candor he asked the question, “Why are we here?” Were they here just because that was their family’s tradition? Was their connection only to last until something better came along? Christianity was supposed to spring from a deep conviction of spiritual need and a face-to-face connection with a just and loving God. Had they bypassed a true conversation for a cheap faith, which offered only comfort to those already comfortable? Were they no more than a big, proud club?
The sermon was heard in stunned silence. It was clear and honest. It asked questions few had nerve to express. The message pierced the congregation’s very soul… so, the next week, church leaders met and promptly fired the preacher. – What Every Church Member Should Know About Poverty
Why are we here? Family tradition? Temporary connection? Are we truly a church serving God wherever that leads or no more than a big proud club? Dangerous questions!
Weeks ago, I described a missed opportunity to help a mother buy $7.43 worth of baby food. But getting involved with helping those in poverty is not easy. Improving financial resources alone can actually complicate matters. Breaking the bonds of poverty is complicated. Becoming more proactive in helping those struggling with poverty is never easy but critically important! But how?
Jesus tells a story: “Two men went to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector The Pharisee, saying: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven but was beating his breast saying, ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” — Luke 18:10-14
• How do we avoid the arrogance of the Pharisee and become like the humble tax collector?
• How does our church avoid the arrogance of a big proud club?
• How do we express our deep conviction of spiritual need and face to face connection with a just and loving God?
Answer: By becoming more involved in helping those who are least likely to help themselves.
So, how do individuals or churches become more proactive helping those struggling with poverty? Here are some simple ideas gleaned from several sources and personal experience:
• Carry Food Gift Cards – Handy for helping someone quickly.
• Donate out of prescription eyeglasses
• Micro Loans for entrepreneurs – several information websites available
Serve a hot meal: Fredericksburg, Virginia churches are on a rotating schedule so that a hot nutritious meal is served twice a day, every day. Often, prayer requests are taken and distributed so that we can be in prayer for the neediest people in our area.
• Fix up and donate used bicycles or automobiles
• Be a tutor in an adult literacy program
• Make baby supply kits for newborns
In our area, eight local churches worked together to form Micah Ministries to help the homeless. A person in need described Micah. “When all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t figure out how to put Humpty Dumpty together again, he/she ends up at Micah. The broken spirits we encounter can take a really long time to heal, but we like to think the services, relationships and hope available through our doors is the very thing that can overcome the most insurmountable odds to put the pieces back together again.”
• Collect suitcases for foster care children
• Donate school supplies to a classroom in a poorer area
• Help your local church start their own or support a food bank
“It is a well-known fact that congregations actively involved in mission outreach are more viable than those that are not so engaged. If a congregation is not reaching out to others in the Name of Christ, it becomes anemic and suffers a significant and noticeable loss of spiritual vitality. And who in the community will be attracted to a sickly and spiritually anemic congregation?” – From “Getting Off Our Buts” by Ray Buchanan