Pastor Steve’s Full Blog Posts
Wooo! That wind is sure chilly. Winter comes early this year! I’m glad we don’t live in the Midwest or New England where it’s really bad.
And I’m glad so few of us are homeless and have to live in this weather without any shelter. Can you imagine that? Think of how bad it would be having to spend all night in this wind, trying to get to sleep! And you can’t just go in the next room and pull out the spare blanket.
If you have a spare blanket that you aren’t using, or an extra sleeping bag, could you let us have it? We are getting asked for many blankets a day now. It is so cold, and folks outside could sure use them. Please drop them off at 19626 NE Glisan or 3733 N Williams, Portland.
“Yes, we have a responsibility to ask the questions of why people are poor, to lobby for better treatment of the poor, to support agencies that who have expertise with the poor, but we also should also be inspired to give directly to the poor. Not because it is the most effective, but because the direct encounter with those who are suffering, and the courage to give without controlling how it is received is important for our own spiritual well being.”
In the early days of our church, my family stayed in a friend’s living room in Hillsboro most of the week and in an office located in a house in Gresham two days of the week. We were just ready to drive to Hillsboro, when we came to our vehicle in a church parking lot, and it wouldn’t start. I’m kinda the opposite of a mechanic, but I looked the engine over only to discover that I didn’t know what I was looking at. We were miles from any place that might be able to help us. We were good and stuck, and we had many miles before we could reach our beds.
Seeing my distress, my five year old son said, “Daddy, why don’t we pray for an angel to come and fix our car?” I said to myself that this was ridiculous and won’t help, but I wanted to be careful with my son’s faith, so I said, “Well, okay. I don’t know that God would send an angel to fix our car. But if you want to, you can pray for that.” “Oh I can’t,” he said, “You have to.” After a short debate, it was clear that my son was going to insist that I pray for something that was just not going to happen. I sighed and said, “Lord, if you want to, you can send an angel to fix our car. If it’s your will, please do it. Amen.”
We sat around for a bit while I considered what other options were available to us. Then, from the park next to the church came a man with a boy, and he approached us and asked if they could play in the playground next to the church. I said “Sure,” and my son looked at me meaningfully, as if to say, “This is the angel, daddy!” So I approached the man and said, “Um, I don’t suppose you know anything about cars, do you? Because our car won’t start, and we’re kind of stuck.”
The stranger said, “Sure, let’s take a look.” He opened the hood, checked the starter and a couple other items, messed around with some unknown mechanical things and in ten minutes he was able to get the car started.
As far as I’m concerned, God sent an angel to repair our car. And he sent a little angel with him so he could play in the church’s playground.
- For Reformation Day, the celebration of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses against the church abomination called indulgences, I offer a reminder of how the church often opposes the way of Jesus: The church has the right to oppress heresies or immoralities
Heresies and immoralities come and go. There will always be a sin that people call righteous and there will always be an evil doctrine that people call godly. But the response of the true church to these is not to fight them or attack them. The true church, in humility, realizes that neither our doctrine nor practice is perfect. The true church will discuss, and point toward Jesus. The true church realizes that Jesus alone is the true teacher and that Jesus is the only judge. Thus, we do not judge for ourselves, nor teach our own doctrine or practice, but just point to Jesus. And, like Jesus, we harm no one, nor let a hateful word pass our lips.
The church is a place of safety from the world
We see our properties and buildings as holy places, a place of purity and quiet to worship the Lord. To do that, we lock ourselves off from the chaos of the world, we separate ourselves from sinners and we create peace for those who live according to the tenants of our community. But Jesus lived among the demon-possessed, the lepers and the chronically ill, in order to bring healing. Jesus ate and fellowshipped with sinners, making them family. Jesus offered peace to those who have no peace in themselves. The church is not to create safety for itself, but safety for those who truly need it—the vulnerable of the world.
Church leadership is a means of gain
Many become pastors because it is a decent profession and they want to help people. Many become pastors because they want to discuss theology and the Bible and make a living at it. Some become church leaders because they see it as a means of avoiding poverty and even a means of power for them and their family. But Jesus said that church leadership is not a means of power or gain, but rather a means of slavery. True leadership in the church is lowliness, poverty and the acceptance of persecution. Jesus’ true leaders are those who give and give and give until there is nothing left to give, who drain themselves in love.
Churches and church leaders often complain that there is not enough money to run their programs, that they need more volunteers, that they need to wield more influence on the world. They want to change the world and build community and they see wealth and people and politics as the means to create true change. But according to Jesus, true change happens through resurrection, and resurrection only happens through the cross. True change occurs when we completely trust the Power that enacts change. The greatest power in the world for change is trust in God, and we enact that trust by living according the merciful will of God.
Persecution is to be avoided
We pray for our persecuted brothers throughout the world, and we might seek political change to ease their suffering. We are willing to fight and even bomb those who threaten the lives of our fellow Christians. We will enact cultural war so we need not change our traditions and practices for any outside influence. But Jesus said that we are not to fight persecution, but rejoice in it. We are not to fear tribulation, but to recognize that it is the key to open the door to the kingdom of heaven. It is a means of opening up the heavens so that blessings would come down upon us. For when we have the comforts and support of this world, we will not obtain the greater blessings of God. The oppressed church is the normative church.
Father, we pray that Anawim can avoid these wrong ways of thinking about your people. We ask that You give us trust in Your power, trust in Your ways. And we ask that you help us to never give up.
As a community, we have a number of principles by which we live, which makes us a unique church, unlike most any others. Here are some of the principles:
- We not only speak of our love of God and neighbor, we show it.
It is not enough to talk a good talk if we do not live it out. Theology and doctrine isn’t the primary indication of being a follower of Jesus, or a member of God’s kingdom. Living it out is. “Faith, if it has no works, is dead”
Below each of the following principles, we will describe some of the ways in which we live these principles out.
2. Our resources are for the poor
We are not building a “Christian” community, but a community of the poor and vulnerable. Our buildings, our finances, our worship, our housing, our food are all primarily for those who lack these very things. We seek those who need the most in our community. “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.”
Our facility is used to shelter those who need a secure place to be, both day and night. Our kitchen is used primarily by the homeless who have no facility to cook in. Our shower is used by those who have no shower. Our bathrooms are open to those who have no place to use the bathroom. Our community house offers rest to those who do not have a place to live.
3. We are multi-cultural
One of the gravest problems in any society is monoculturalism, the myopic viewing of the world through only one point of view. We seek to build relationships with people of different languages, different social groups and different ethnicities so that we might learn to get out of our own narrow-mindedness, and understand the breadth of God’s variety. “Before the throne and before the Lamb are those of every tribe and all nations, peoples and tongues.”
Our church facility is used by four different congregations: One African, one Hmong, one Hispanic and one homeless. We invite middle class people to both serve and participate in our meals, especially to relate to our homeless and needy.
4. We live by faith
We don’t know where tomorrow’s meal will come from. We don’t know whether we will have tomorrow the shelter that we depended on today. We seek God to provide for us, knowing that God often provides in the very last minute. “Give us this day our daily bread”
Our prayer is our means of survival on a minute-by-minute basis. As an organization, we only occasionally ask for funds, allowing the Spirit to move people to give as He sees fit.
We cannot live without each other, because none of us have enough to live well on our own. When one person has an excess, then he or she shares with others, so that we may all live in plenty. When one is lacking in basic needs, they can go to others in the community to try to meet their needs, whether food, shelter or clothing. “There was not a needy person among them because… they would lay good at the apostle’s feet who would distribute to all who had need.”
Our facilities are set up to be places of giving and receiving, where churches and individuals can drop off their excess so that we can give it to the needy throughout Portland.
6. We sell nothing we are given
If we receive a donation as a gift, we do not sell it to receive the money from it. Rather, we find those who could use the donation and give it to them freely. “Freely you have received, freely give.”
All the clothing, furniture, food and other items that Anawim receives is distributed freely to the poor in the Portland area.
7. We disobey any law that is in disobedience to mercy
If we come against an ordinance or law that commands us not to love or show mercy to those in need, we will try to go around the law, but ultimately we must openly disobey if that is our only option. We will always obey the higher command to love. “We must obey God rather than men.”
We will allow people to sleep on our property in emergency situation, even when that is in opposition to local camping or housing ordinances.
8. We make peace
We go to where there is violence and create a community of peace. We use peacemaking principles in order to subdue violent ways and create a community that not only is at peace with itself but will create peace in the community at large. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.”
We hold biblical peacemaking trainings for the homeless and for other churches. We constantly affirm the principles of peacemaking throughout our shelters, offering a constant training of the mind of peace. We prevent and mediate conflict among those who come to our facility.
9. We seek to convert the violent and immoral
We are not content to have a community of peace, but rather continue to seek the criminal and the mentally ill and the violent in order to give them an opportunity of a new life of peace in Jesus. “Eating with the sinners and tax collectors.”
We invite anyone to eat of our food, to take showers and to get clothes, only asking that they refrain from violence on the property. Those who attempt to bring drugs to the property or who attempt to do violence we offer alternatives.
10. We accept suffering as our lot
We recognize that our calling is not an easy calling, and we face violence and difficulty daily. This long term ministry (which we have been participating in for twenty years) wears on us, and we struggle to persevere. Our neighbors, the local governments and even some of those we serve attack us and make our burden that much harder. But we seek the Lord to give us strength and endurance. “Without many tribulations, no one can enter the kingdom of God.”
When we are yelled at, we do not yell back. When we are threatened, we do not threaten back. When we are hit, we do not hit back. Rather, we seek God’s mercy for all.
The church is lost, focusing on doctrine, focusing on myopic communities, focusing on the wealthy, focusing on middle class values, focusing on comforts. We seek to remind the church of the radical message of Jesus, calling us to radical lives not just scandalous words. Ultimately, we seek to transform the church from an entity compromised with the values of the world to step out and be truly unique in the image of Jesus. “Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.”
We encourage and teach radical discipleship in our denomination, and on the internet. We partner with local churches to join us in radical giving to the poor.
- We not only speak of our love of God and neighbor, we show it.