Vineyard Values Series: Compassionate Ministry

Over the last month we have been looking at our core values:

  1. The Theology and Practice of the Kingdom of God
  2. Experiencing God
  3. Reconciling Community
  4. Culturally Relevant Mission
  5. Compassionate Ministry

Today we are going to be completing this series with a look at why we engage in compassionate ministry with the lost, the poor, outcast, and the outsider. Along those lines, I have asked some folks to come and share with us a little bit about why they work at the food pantry.

{Click here to listen to the full audio version of the sermon including testimonies}

Thank you both for those wonderful stories… God is moving and changing lives! Isn’t it exciting to be used by God? To be a part of what He is going in this community?
God is good….all the time.

Why?

Why do we do it? What is our purpose? Good questions to which there could be many, many answers….each person in effect has a story about why they do what they do.

Yet as a community I think it is important to have an overarching answer to these questions – to why we engage in compassionate ministry. Why we feed the hungry and clothe the naked….

It all goes back to our very first core value – the theology and practice of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God – this was Jesus’ central message throughout the Gospels.  He was declaring that God’s rule and reign had entered into the world and was driving out evil.

Jesus’ life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension was for one purpose – to overcome evil, deliver humanity from its power, and to bring us into the blessed covering of God Almighty.

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. -1 John 3:8b

He came to deliver us from the bondage of sin and death and to bring us into the Kingdom of Light – into the loving arms of the Father. He came to restore our relationship with the creator of Heaven and Earth.

This is HUGE!! This is powerful!!

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Passover – the Jewish holiday marking the time when God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt – out of slavery – out of bondage so that they could be the people of God. So that they could be free to worship Him.

On that night, many years ago, on the evening of the plague against the firstborn – the Lord instructed the people to kill a lamb and eat it inside their homes. They were to take some of the blood from the lamb and to brush it over their doors – on the sides and the top of the doorjambs.

It was to be sign that inside those homes lived the people of God.

Years later, Jesus was killed on Passover. He was hung on a cross and His blood now marks our lives – telling everyone that we are the people of God. This may sound cruel and horrible as a lot of us don’t butcher our own meat anymore. We are used to walking down an aisle and buying something out of a package…

Yet, during those times – people had to butcher their own meat. They understood that the blood of an animal was the life line of that animal.

To be under the blood – as we sometimes sing or say – it is be under the life of Jesus Christ. It is to say that He is our King. That we are no longer under sin and evil but under the life and grace of God Almighty.

Jesus came to destroy evil. And He did.

His destroyed it, is destroying it, and will destroy it forever and ever when He comes again.

It is because of this that we engage in compassionate ministry.

You see, when God created the world He called it good. There was no hunger or poverty or sickness or racism or evil. It was good. Yet our forefathers – our original parents – Adam and Eve – decided to rebel against God. They decided that they wanted to be their own kings and rule their own lives. Through this rebellious act sin and evil entered into the world.

Everything was affected. Nature was affected. No longer was there peace and wholeness in the land… Until Jesus came and broke the power of sin.

Therefore, when we give a box of food to someone who is hungry – we are breaking the power of sin in that situation. We are declaring to the world that Jesus is in control and that He is King. No longer will that person be hungry. They will be fed according to the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ working through us.

The same is true for those who need clothes. When we clothe those who are naked – whose clothes are wearing out – those who need something nice in order to find a job or to keep a job – or when we give a child some nice clothes so that they don’t get picked upon at school.

When we do that, we are declaring that Jesus is there. That sin and evil  – the root cause of whatever situation that caused them not to have clothes – we are saying that sin and evil no longer have the authority to rule in that situation. King Jesus has broken into their lives and has given them Himself.

The same is true whenever we bring a food dish to someone who just lost a love one or who is sick. We are declaring the Lordship of Jesus over that situation.

Jesus came to destroy sin and evil. Not just in our personal lives – not just in the spiritual realm. No!! He came to destroy sin and evil everywhere!! He is destroying it in our lives – in our spirits. In our communities, in the way we dress, the way we act. He is in control over every area of our lives.

Reductionisms

In Christianity today there is a tendency to reduce the good news of Jesus to ‘bite size’ pieces. To reduce the Kingdom of God into something smaller then what it really is. Folks do this for a variety of reasons – yet, most of it is because they want something easy. Something easy to say; something easy to do.

We live in the middle of a culture that loves marketing phrases – you see them everywhere. Little catch phrases and statements that reduce the bigger story into something small. I think we must guard against that. We need to be a people who see and live within God’s story – not some reduced story of our own making.

So what are these reductionisms?

One form of reductionisms is when we reduce the Gospel message to spiritual salvation only. If we say that the only reason Jesus came was to provide a way for us to get to Heaven, then we have reduced the grand story of God.

YES – hear me loud and clear – Jesus DID come to restore our relationship with God. To provide us a way to live in eternity with God on a new and restored earth and heaven.

Yet, that is not the whole picture. Jesus came to do so much more.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says…whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” –James 2:22, 25-27

To do what it says… to look after the orphans and the widows…wow…

Another form of reductionisms is when we dismiss the spiritual power of the Cross and focus simply on taking care of the poor and other social justice issues. When we forget that there is an enemy out there trying to take us out – we reduce the Gospel message and allow the evil one to pick us off like flies.

As Paul said to the Corinthians:

When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. -1 Cor. 2:1-5

We have to maintain the full story of God. We have to constantly affirm that Jesus came to save all of us: spirit, body, soul and mind.

It is a both/and deal.

How we do compassionate Ministry?

This both/and approach means that we do compassionate ministry differently than some people… This doesn’t mean that we are right and they are wrong. It just means that we are different.

Here is what I mean – shoe leather time as Reggie (PRV’s consulting pastor) likes to say.

A year and a half ago – Fall of 2009 – God told Brian (PRV’s former pastor) that we needed to started getting out into the community. After praying about, he came before us all and mentioned that it would be nice to have a food pantry to help those who needed food. Several of you – including those whom we hear from earlier – heard the voice of God speaking through Brian – so much so that a food pantry was born six weeks later (a record time frame by the way).

Ever since then, we have had the joy of feeding those who are hungry and clothing those who are without. We also pray with those who need prayer; hug those who need a hug; tell those who don’t know about Jesus; and love everyone.

This style of ministry forces us to listen to God.

As each person comes into the food pantry, we have to ask God what He is doing in that person’s life. What words should we say? Or should we keep quiet?

Commodilla Catacomb, Rome (4th cent.)

Remember how I said that we were a center-set movement? A people focused on moving toward Jesus Christ rather than trying to set up and cross a line developed by humans?

This is how you live out that concept. We have to be a people who ask Jesus what He is doing in that person’s life and how can we help Him show that person His love.

I will be honest with you, living this way means that we have to have a lot of trust. We have to trust that God is at work in that person’s life before we meet them. We have to trust that God will use us to help show His love to that person. We have to trust that God will continue to work in that person’s life after they leave.
We also have to trust each other.

We have to trust that each of us are listening to God and are following Him. We have to trust that each of us are obeying God. We may want to do something different – we may not like the way they are handling the situation – but we have to trust each other and trust God that He is in control.

Of course, this listening also means that we have to guard against the other form of reductionism. It is easy to simply give out food boxes without asking God what He is doing. It is easy to give people food without ever acting upon the words God is telling us to do – like telling them about Jesus or asking them if we could pray with them.

We must guard against becoming too busy to interact with folks. We must guard against getting so caught up in our ‘job’ that we forget to ask God what He is doing or, if we do ask, we might decide not to say anything because there is a long line.

Jesus made people wait. He told people that He was doing the Fathers business at that moment – and that they could wait until God was done with that person. We have to remember that.

If we don’t, then we will become nothing more than a good works club. A group of do-gooders who have a form of righteousness but no power.

We also have to guard against trying to set up a hard and fast rule forcing everyone who comes into the pantry to listen to our spill about Jesus before giving them food. This mentality is easy – too easy. It means that we don’t have to listen to Jesus in every situation – we just have to repeat some lines on a page.

People cease to be people with individual stories – people who God is working with – people who are made in the image of God – instead they would become a target. Someone to ‘convert’ or to get into the church building. We would start seeing them as a way to notch our belt. How many tracts did we hand out? How many people have we saved? Etc and etc.

No!!

We must guard against both of those forms of reductionisms! We must take the power of the Holy Spirit – signs and wonders; healings and words of knowledge; prophesies and words of wisdoms – we must take the gifts that God has given us into the streets, the byways, the fields, the homes of our community.

We practice here in the church in order to do it out there.

We recently adopted a vision statement for the church – it is written on our bulletins and on our business cards. It is a short statement that carries with it the entire story of God.

“Doing what Jesus did.”

What did Jesus do? He listened to the Father and only did and said what the Father did and said.

“Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” –Jesus, John 5:19-30

Jesus healed the sick, cleansed leapers, casted out demons, raised the dead, proclaimed the Kingdom of God, loved His father and loved everyone around Him.

He fed the hungry; clothed the naked. Walked with the unloved and partied with the outcast.

If we claim to be His followers, than we must do what our Master – our King – did and is doing.

Ending

As we end today, I want to pray for anyone who wants more of God. I want to pray for those people who want to hear God like never before.

People who are working at the food pantry and who want to be able to join with God in what He is doing.

Jesus told His followers that He would send them a teacher and counselor to guide them. Someone who would give them the words to say. Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit came He would give them power to be His witnesses throughout the world.

If this hits a chord, please come up. Note that it doesn’t matter if you have been prayed for this before – we all leak.

I feel that God is wanting to pour out Himself in a new way today. In a way that will open up our ears and open our eyes. In a way that we have never seen in this valley.

Come God come.

4 thoughts on “Vineyard Values Series: Compassionate Ministry”

  1. grateful for the message. so often I forget to allow Him to be present in each task. Follow more closely and completely.

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