Monday, November 30, 2009

Ministry With The Poor

Today I continue the Obsessed series of entries. Once again we are working from the chapter titled "Profile of the Obsessed" in the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Today's profile maker is, "People who are obsessed with Jesus Christ live lives that connect them with the poor in some way or another. Obsessed people believe Jesus talked about money and the poor so often because it was really important to him."

Being a United Methodist pastor I do my best to keep us with the global initiatives of the church. In the recent years the General Church put forth the four focus points for the coming years. Among the four points is ministry with the poor. I was thankful for the wording of with the poor and not for the poor, and I continue to be thankful the church is putting its attention on an issue which was so close to the heart of Jesus. I am regretful that it required an international initiative to get the church to pay attention.

Theoretically the church should have a disproportionate number of people in it who are obsessed with Jesus Christ. This would mean that the people of the church would not only see the need for ministry with the poor, but would be leading the way across the world. I cannot help wonder about the state of our General Church, and our local churches is this had gotten out of focus. I know in my own life when I have wandered away from being obsessed with Jesus, my compassion and connection with the poor has suffered greatly. Could it be that our churches are filled with a disproportionate number of people who are not obsessed with Jesus Christ?

Before you enter that comment calling me all kinds of names, let me further complicate the issue. I have no right to judge the station of another persons heart. I do not sit in the judgment seat, and do not know the hearts and minds of humanity. I do however, have the ability to look at the fruit of my own life, and the life of this thing called the church. If the tree comes up empty there are some conclusions I can draw. For the General Church to make a global initiative of ministry with the poor, the conclusion is we have not been bearing fruit in this area. I understand the countless number of servants who willingly and sacrificially give of themselves to this end. Blanket statements are always dangerous. Still the evidence remains that those of us in the United Methodist Church, and other churches, have not been keeping consistent with the Biblical mandate when it comes to the poor.

Great energy is spent on church and conference budgets, when people right outside our doors are going without food. Millions of dollars are spent training people about the global crisis of poverty, instead of investing the money on ministry which would work at come alongside the poor. I think we are obsessed, I am just not convinced it is always with Jesus Christ. Ministry initiatives look nice in print materials, and they can help people feel good about their church, but will they change anything? Only if it begins with finding ways for the people of the church to become obsessed with Jesus Christ. Otherwise it is a social service project which will die once it runs its course. When we connect with the poor as an extension of being obsessed with Jesus, we develop a lifestyle, more than a program.

Should we be in ministry with the poor, absolutely. However, it should not be because it is an initiative of the church. Our desire and work with the poor should stem from being obsessed with Jesus Christ, and believing to the point of living it, that issues of economics and the poor really are important to Jesus.

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