As I have shared this with people, many have responded and said that they have been receiving a similar challenge from God and I truly believe that God is at work in our Church and that he wants us to respond to the needs that we see (or that we ignore) everyday.
This will be a long post, but I wanted to be more specific about how God has been challenging me…
This summer, a hand injury gave me a chance to spend more specific time with God, and during that time God began to challenge me with very heavy (not easy) stuff for me. Over the last few years I have often felt the need to challenge our church to be more of a help to people who live in poverty…I often felt that our church has been blessed with many financial blessings and that we could be doing more with those blessings. As I read the Bible and other books during my time with God I found that he was challenging me specifically. I didn’t hear a voice per se, but I knew God was saying to me (through his word and other people), “You think your church isn’t doing enough to help the needy, but what about you? You don’t even know your neighbors well enough to know if they are in need.” This was a very strong challenge to me, and one that has been at work in my heart over the last few months. Lately as I do my Bible reading I actually try to avoid passages that talk about poverty, but it always seems that God speaks to me about it through every passage I read, and through many of the experiences that I have. I have also come to a few discoveries that I believe are significant (at least for me)
- I saw how much money our church easily able to raise to send a large group of people to Cambodia to help with poverty there. This was an important thing for us to do, but I often felt challenged to be doing more here as well, poverty is not ONLY far away, it is around the corner.
- The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) helped me to realize that Jesus may have been saying something about learning from people that we normally look down upon. Jewish people normally looked down upon Samaritans (I look down on inner-city homeless). I was challenged to see that I have something to learn from people I normally look down upon. This was confirmed for me when I visited a young lady who works with inner-city children. She said, “I used to think that I would bring Jesus to the people of the inner-city, now I realize that when I came to bring them Jesus, I found out that he was already there.” I think that middle class people need to get to know people who live in poverty, otherwise there is no way we can learn from them, nor can we help them.
- I have separated the two greatest commandments at times. Jesus said that we should love God and love others (Luke 10:27)…and yet I often just want to love God…so I believe all the right things, I behave in the appropriate ways (I don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t sin – well OK as best I can), and try not to do things that will hurt God, but I think if we live like that we are missing a huge part of what it means to be a Christian…our faith may actually be dead. I believe it is also very important to love people, especially the needy, this is a demonstration of our love for God (Sheep and the Goats).
- The book of Philemon taught me about being a mediator. A mediator between those in need and those who have. It would probably be simplest for me to just start volunteering at a soup kitchen downtown or do something like that, but it is important for me to challenge others as I have been challenged, and I think some of you need to come along with me on this journey of helping people.
So far I have gone to visit a few of the downtown ministries that have caught my attention. I have been to Union Gospel Mission, Siloam Mission, LBE, and Inner-City Youth Alive – I am planning to get together with a representative from Love Lives Here as well. I have done some other research on the internet and through information that people have given me on other ministries. I have grown increasingly aware that there is a strong Christian presence in the downtown core and there are a lot of GREAT things going on there. They are seriously in need of volunteers, and need help to run the things that they do. They also could use help with some new dreams and goals, which I can share with you another time.
The plans I have are very limited, but here they are...
- Right now, I believe that I need to spend time getting to know people in need. I can’t help them well if I really don’t know them and what their need is. I had lunch last week at Siloam Mission and just sat and talked with people…it was very eye opening.
- I plan on getting involved in one or some of the inner-city ministries, and to just get a chance to interact with the people from the inner-city.
- I plan to speak about this calling on December 30th (I am preaching that day)
- I plan on bringing together a group of people together to talk about what we as a church can do to make our faith live and be active – Sunday, January 13th at 6:30pm
Here are a few questions for you:
- Has God been challenging you in this way? If so let us know your story.
- What can individuals do to get to know inner-city people?
- What do you plan to do?