Do What You Can Do
By remembering the poor, we're helping the poor realize they’re not forgotten, they’re not alone, they do matter, they have value, there is hope, they are loved, and they are human.
Lead Pastor, Renaissance Vineyard Church, Ferndale, MI
Remember The Poor
As the leaders of the church in Jerusalem commissioned Paul to make disciples and form churches from among the Gentiles, their parting exhortation was to “remember the poor.” We’re told it was the very thing Paul was eager to do. That invitation comes down to us today.
In one sense, how could we forget the poor? Most of us are familiar with that moment when we’re approached and asked, “Hey, can I get some change?” Sound familiar? Or the “Will Work For Food” signs seen at street corners all around American cities? Maybe you know a family member or friend down on their luck and out of work.
Yet, if we’re honest, we may not always share Paul’s eagerness. Perhaps we feel too busy. Perhaps we’re afraid we won’t have enough. Or maybe we’re simply overwhelmed at the scope of the problem and don’t know where to begin.
That’s where I first found myself. Our church is in an inner ring suburb of Detroit. I was overwhelmed with the possibilities until I sensed the Lord saying, “Do something! Start somewhere!” I could do that. I landed on the idea of passing out groceries at a local mobile home community. I shared my idea with church members that I thought might be interested. I gathered a small team, and we got to work.
We called it The Grocery Giveaway. Short on poetry, I know. We did what we could do – once a month we’d fill up 20 bags of groceries, then give them away door to door, offering to pray for anyone that had a need. Soon we had members of the neighborhood joining us. I handed the ministry over to another leader, and it grew. Eventually, we had a small group meeting onsite and had favor with the property owners; we were seen as a community resource for the whole park.
A Kingdom Practice
In Luke 4, Jesus announced that one of the reasons He came was to bring good news to the poor. Remembering the poor is Kingdom activity. We’re manifesting the abundance of the age to come in our present circumstances for the sake of those who need it most.
By remembering the poor, we’re helping the poor realize they’re not forgotten, they’re not alone, they do matter, they have value, there is hope, they are loved, they are human. This good news comes in the form of a smile and hello, a warm meal, stopping to have a conversation with our homeless neighbor, treating folks with dignity.
Sharing Good News
Jesus said that those who hear His words and put them into practice build their house on the rock.
Our church hosts an overnight shelter for about 80-100 homeless men and women the first week of each year. We provide a hot meal, warm smiles and a safe place to sleep. Our volunteers know the main thing we’re serving is love. We want to give our guests our best, so we convert our sanctuary into a sleeping space for the men, and the women sleep in our Vineyard Kids’ area. It’s a great way to serve the community, too.
One friend told me once, “Jim, we may not see eye to eye on Jesus, but look at how your church loves. That’s why I’m here tonight.”
Our food pantry is led by a single guy giving out of the overflow of what he’s received. We feed 75 families each month. Because we noticed that fresh vegetables were hard to come by, we started our own garden in an underused corner of our property. Connected to the pantry is a clothing closet that has developed as an outgrowth of these ministries.
We’re always looking for other ideas, too. One member knitted hats, and a local artists’ market agreed to hang them for free outside their store downtown. We’ve encouraged families to keep little goodie bags in their cars for folks they see on the corner. Our kids’ ministry has helped packed them for the families. We’re now considering ways to help Middle Eastern refugees in our area. We’re constantly looking for ways to help people break the cycle of poverty.
The poor aren’t a project. They are our neighbors. I love meeting a homeless guy on the street corner, or a family in need at my kids’ school, and saying, “If you come by our church, we’ll help you out.”
How can you share good news with the poor?
To learn more about the Renaissance Vineyard in Ferndale, MI, visit their website here.