The industrial revolution changed our world forever. Factories produced more product out the back end of the assembly line than several individual shops had been able to manufacture collectively. This changed so much. Levels of income were impacted, work hours, education for a white collar group of people, urban shift began, etc. Industrialization also changed the church. Caring for the needy (among other things) became a process that mirrored the assembly line schematics. Roles were given and systems put in place to facilitate the church’s ability to meet the needs of the poor. And it was good.
Through collection of tithes and offerings, some of the budget is allocated to caring for the poor. With funds collected, some staff or lay people go with huge hearts to buy food to stock a food closet for the poor. When hungry families come to get food, they have a form to fill in, a meeting with a pastor to hear the gospel, and a bag of food. Then, their names are recorded to start the clock for them to be able to return for food in 1, 3, or 6 months time. Through this good, there is a way for the hungry to be fed and an opportunity for one or a select few to be about sharing the gospel.
It seems that so much less could be so much more at this point. Jesus speaks to His disciples about a day when He will separate the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. The distinction between the two that He gives in Matthew 25 is that some fed the hungry and clothed the naked while others did not. He speaks of a personal accounting here, not of the churched and the unchurched. The expectation is clear. It is a daily outworking of the Lordship of Christ that causes a person to see with His eyes of compassion. The ramifications are enormous. It is the difference between being blessed or cursed by God.
If instead of the needy waiting in an office to meet with someone to learn about God to then have their physical need met, what would it look like if a family seeking to follow Christ showed up with a hot meal at the home of the needy? Instead of a meal delivered it could be a meal served up personally or a meal shared. While obeying Christ’s command to feed the hungry, the disciple is also obeying the command to make disciples. What if the homeless was invited to dine in a restaurant with a disciple-maker and a disciple or two. Then after dinner, more food is given to the needy. And the family or group of disciples that began to bless continued the relationship and blessed further and helped and served. Further help may come about in the areas of helping the needy find work, manage finances, care for children, and in the process learn about the One who sends others to bless. In the realm of great discipleship, the church is released into the community to serve and bless others and carry the hope of Christ into families that desperately need it.
a little on money
Serving the poor in this way does not mean that church funds do not need to go to serving the poor anymore. There still will be issues far beyond what a family or two or three can meet. This could be assisted through funds from a larger church budget. The discipleship process could start with a stock of food that the pastoral staff gives to the disciples going to bless and form relationship and a time for them to pray together for wisdom and multiplication of the resources. However, when a family gets involved, things are different–especially when children participate. It has been my experience that the children will want to give some of their own food and money to meet the needs of those that they are serving. Discipleship is inevitable at this point. It is great…it cannot be easily stopped.
(In the excerpts from my non-book, Great to Good (G2g), truth or satire may be employed. At times, the two may even meet.)