Pastor Steve’s Full Blog Posts
The other evening a woman gets off of the MAX at 162nd and walks the street to her work. A gang corners her and demands his money. She didn’t have any, so they beat her up and left her on the street, rifled through her purse, found out she wasn’t lying and left her there, bleeding.
A Baptist pastor whose church was down the street drove by, but he had a board meeting to go to, so he couldn’t stop. A staff person for an important local homeless ministry happened to be going by, saw the woman, wanted to stop, but he had an important donor to meet, so he kept going.
A Muslim man, dressed in a white cap was just walking by after prayer, saw the woman and immediately called 911, check her pulse, took off his cap and pressed it to the wound, speaking kind words to the woman until the ambulance arrived.
So which of the three displayed the mercy of God?
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The unworthy nations of this world will be subjected to the king of mercy and power. At that point, every person in the world will be taken before the king, and they will be divided from one another: one side to his right and another to his left.
The king will look to his right and tell them, “I welcome you into my kingdom, for you are the kind of people I want to live with, that I want to fill the world with. For I was oppressed and downbeaten and starving and hopeless and avoided and you went out of your way to help me, to support me and to encourage me. Please, let me live with you forever.”
And those on his right will say, “When did we do this? Many of us aren’t Christians and others didn’t go to the right churches?” His reply: “This day is based not on who you say you are, but on what you did. You had compassion on my family, and so you had mercy on me. Please, come in and receive the world.”
The king will then turn to those on his left and say, “I cannot have you in my kingdom. You shall spend the rest of your days miserable because you will be living with people just like you. For I was homeless and oppressed and starving and suffering with my children and you laughed at me. You told your spouse that I wasn’t worthy of being helped. You were rude to me in my suffering. You ignored me when I was at my wits end. You politely told me that you couldn’t help me when the reality is you wouldn’t help me. You are the people I would never have in my world, because you tear the hurting down instead of building them up. I exile you.”
And they will reply, “But Lord, we worshiped you in our churches. We built you great buildings in your honor. We created communities in your name. We preached to thousands. We led Bible studies and prayer meetings. We got rid of those who were unholy from your people. We made the world safer through our military and police force. We loved, but in our own way. Isn’t that enough?”
He said, “Since you did not love the vulnerable, but harmed them, you are not the citizens I can have in my kingdom. See if you can live with each other. You are exiled.”
It is so wonderful how many churches provide a Thanksgiving meal somewhere, and will go to a central location to help the poor. Did you know, though, that in the early church, if a congregation didn’t have an active ministry to the poor in their community, they couldn’t be called a “church”. They could be a meeting, or a prayer group, but they couldn’t be a church unless they had a regular work in their church for the poor.
Is your church involved with the poor? Perhaps you are wondering what ways a church can get involved? It really is about looking at your church’s resources and making them available.
Here are some ways that I’ve helped our church and other churches– whether alone or in network– reach out to the needy in our communities:
-Offer showers to the homeless
-Community meals inside a church
-Cook a meal to deliver to a soup kitchen
-Cook and serve a meal at a soup kitchen or senior center
-Free clothing closet
-Art studio for the poor
-Transportation for the homeless to services
-Making canned food and produce available for families
-Opening our kitchen for the homeless to cook the food they get from food stamps
-Providing day shelters so the homeless can get out of the weather and the community eye for a few hours a week.
-Offering space in our church facilities for community gardens
-Having a warehouse for items to be given to the poor and homeless
-Overnight shelters on the coldest nights of the year
-Provide haircuts at a soup kitchen
-Provide bike repair at a soup kitchen
-Allow some people who sleep in vehicles to stay in the church parking lot for a period of time.
-Arranging an agreement for one or two responsible homeless folks to stay on church property.
-Gather blankets, socks, sleeping bags, breakfast bars, fruit, individual containers of food, hygiene items, hand warmers and hand them out to the homeless
-Have a trained volunteer church worker who will recommend services to those who call in need.
I haven’t done this myself, but I know churches that do:
-Provide bus tickets for the poor
-Offer motel vouchers for the homeless
-Organize lunch and hygiene items and socks in sacks to hand out to the homeless at their camps
-Provide rent or utility assistance to prevent people from becoming homeless
-Provide a social worker to obtain birth certificates and ID for those who have lost theirs
Each of these things requires a bit of organization, but they are basic and often provide a huge need for the community. In Gresham, almost all services are provided by churches, doing just what was described above.