Pillar 4: Ministry to the Poor
For me, this is the easiest and the toughest pillar that we have at River City Church.
In one sense, I am the least qualified to write about this, compared to some others who are living this out and who orient their lives sacrificially for others less fortunate than they are. Having said that, I have a few things to say that I feel are from my heart and that I have experienced.
Truth 1: There are parts of the Kingdom of God that you will not experience if you minister only to people who are like you.
At RCC we say, "We believe that there is strength in diversity." That unwritten value is grounded in this first truth. The more diverse we are (economically, racially and socially), the more we reflect God's Kingdom.
If all people are created in His image, and we are all different, then the more diverse we are, the more we reflect to the world what God is really like.
This is hard because we would all like to believe that God is most like us, our culture, our heritage, our country. But this is not true. This is you and I, believing the lie that we are better, more informed, and have a hand up on people different from us. Ministering or being in community with people who are different from us helps us to experience God's love in ways that we would never know if surrounded by people who are just like us.
Truth 2: Grace: without God, you are screwed!
I have what I have because of God and because of grace. I am who I am because of God and because of grace. Without God and His grace, I would be dead or in prison, and, possibly, so would you without His grace.
One of the greatest lies the enemy uses is to convince us that God loves us and has blessed us because we have earned what we have and that because we have made good, sound decisions.
Pardon my French, but that is baloney.
Your ability to think, the family you grew up in, the discipline you have to make the decisions you make are ALL GIFTS!! All grace from God. Without God's grace, you could be a rapist, a pedophile or a murderer. I am more aware than anyone of the great evil I am capable of engaging in. But, for whatever reason, God, in His love for me, has spared me from myself.
If this is true, then I should extend that same grace to others whom God loves just a much as He loves me. I am His hand of grace to those less fortunate than I am.
"God helps those who help themselves." = Wrong!
"God helps those who know they need help." = Right!
At least, that is what God did with me and continues to do in my life. While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me. That means that while I was God's enemy, while I was still evil, while I was still stupid, selfish and interested in only what was not best for me, God died for me.
In the same way, we are called to love and extend grace to the poor, not because they deserve it, but because it was extended to us when we did not deserve it.
Truth 3: Time spent with the poor helps me experience more of God
When I am around people who have fewer material possessions than I do but, at the same time, love and experience more of God than I do, it makes me want what they have.
Deeply rooted in my heart is a desire for "life to the full" (John 10:10). This desire leads me to pursue opportunities where I think I may find this life. Again and again, I have found that one of the places God meets me and blesses me with great experiences of His love is when I find myself ministering to and loving people who are hurting.
He does this by putting me around people who have less than I do, but who are happier and more joyful than I am because of their love for Him. I see that and say, "I want their joy, I want their happiness!!" God says, "Then come to me and get it." So, I am compelled by my desire for "life to the full” to go to God and find and receive what they have and what I want.
Understanding these truths helps us to understand why it is beneficial to minister to the poor and hurting. It also shows us why we may be weak in reaching out to the poor and hurting. Proverbs 22:2 reminds us that none of us deserve the things we have, whether worldly or spiritual— all has been given to us by grace.
**The previous three truths are very “self-focused”, meaning they are motivated by what is best for me in my walk with Christ. This is NOT the primary reason God desires for us to serve the poor. For a more comprehensive biblical and theological understanding of God’s desire to bring transformation to the poor community, please listen to RCC’s teaching on the Poverty Mandate by Mo Leverett. This topic is being covered in our series called “Undone”. You can listen to the talks on our Courses Podcast. **