Tag Archives: Social Justice

It requires a missionary mentality…

[box]The following text was written by Cheryl and Lance Pittluck, pastors of the VCF of Anaheim, for the recently released “Remember the Poor” booklet published by the Vineyard USA.[/box]

Cheryl and Lance Pittluck
Cheryl and Lance Pittluck

“There can be little argument that the goal of the Christian life is to be more like Jesus… to act and think, to respond and speak like Jesus. And therefore, we must also aim for the priorities of Jesus.

‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed’ (Luke 4:18).

We preach, and we preach good news, and we preach good news to the poor, I hope. But reaching out to the poor doesn’t necessarily come naturally. Unless ‘the poor’ are your family, friends and immediate community, it’s easy to not give them much thought. They often go unheard, not having a voice in society. They may not shop where we shop, hang out in the places where we socialize, or even attend our churches. And yet, they are to be a primary concern to us, as they are to God.

‘For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight’ (Ps. 72:12-14).

The answer seems obvious that we are to make a concerted effort to carry out God’s commands to love, serve and minister to the poor. Taking our faith out into the streets may mean searching for the streets that are hidden from our daily lives. It requires a missionary mentality… the kind of thinking and planning that goes into ministry to another culture different from our own. Because that is what poverty is, a culture. They live by different rules, having learned to survive with less than they need – less money and material possessions, but also less education, tools, opportunities, and options. And before we can really serve them, we have to learn from them what it means to be poor, and who they are.

‘Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?’ (Is. 58:6).

How do I minister to you? I get to know you, spend time with you, listen, ask questions and even share from my own life. And I have to show you that I care and can be trusted. This takes time, persistence, consistency and commitment. How do we minister to the poor? We meet them, befriend them, listen to and learn from them, love and serve them, and invite them into our family to share what we have – the hope and promise and freedom that comes from living in the light and love of God.

‘For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’ (2 Cor. 3:17).”

– Cheryl and Lance Pittluck

What Jesus Said About the Poor

[box]The following text is an excerpt from the recently released “Remember the Poor” booklet published by the Vineyard USA.[/box]

the poorThe Poor In The Old Testament

In the Gospels, we see Jesus spending a considerable amount of time among the poor, serving them, encouraging them, and even standing up for them. He was carrying on the deep, rich Jewish biblical tradition of providing for those in need.

These words from the book of Deuteronomy reveal God’s tenderness toward the socially vulnerable:

“He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing (Deut. 10:18).

“If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs” (Deut. 15:7-8).

“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land” (Deut. 15:11).

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Is. 58:6-7).

The Poor In The Gospels

From these roots, Jesus calls the early Church to commit to seek out the poor and dignify them with their care:

“Looking at his disciples he said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God’ (Luke 6:20).

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed” (Luke 4:18).

“…But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous’” (Luke 14:13-14).

The Poor In The New Testament

Following Jesus’ example, the apostles and the early Church embody Jesus’ love for the poor:

“All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along” (Gal. 2:10).

“Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality (Rom. 12:13).

“Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (James 2:5).

“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 1:27).

A Movement That Cares For The Poor

After Jesus’ resurrection, in the earliest years of the Church, the Roman government struggled to care for the masses of widows and orphans overrunning their society. Motivated by Jesus’ model, and realizing that the poor were to be welcomed as Jesus himself, the early Christians addressed the issues of social struggle surrounding orphans and widows. Some scholars suggest this may have been the primary reason the Church grew like wildfire in its first century of life.

Since those early days, the church of Jesus Christ has been marked by our care for the least, the last, and the lost. When the marginalized and forgotten of any society are brought into the center of a loving community that worships Christ, powerful things begin to happen.

Jesus has called us to care for the poor – both for their sake and our own.

A Vineyard View of the Poor

[box]The following text is an excerpt from the recently released “Remember the Poor” booklet published by the Vineyard USA.[/box]

remember the poorWho are the poor?

Today, we often see poverty through the lens of economics or personal financial weakness. In the New Testament, however, the poor are generally seen as those who are powerless in society, and who therefore lack the basic necessities they need to sustain their lives. Without resources, and without a voice, they lack not only power, but also social respect and material goods. Because of the daily stresses of survival, relationships often break down. Poverty is a disease of society, and the remedies for all our social ills are found in the life and teaching of Jesus.

In the Scriptures, it seems that God has a special place in his heart for the poor. Poverty is mentioned, directly or indirectly, more than 2000 times in the Bible. Reminding us of the Church’s call to care for the marginalized and impoverished among us, Jesus said words that pierce us to this day:

“…‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matt. 25:40).

The Vineyard family of churches leans toward the poor, the outcast, and the outsider with the compassion of Jesus. From the beginning of our movement, Vineyard churches have worked to actively serve the poor in the most practical ways possible – in our towns, cities, and spheres of influence. John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard, was personally committed to calling us to a radically compassionate life in the way of Jesus.

In the Vineyard, we believe that faithfulness to Jesus means that we are faithful to remember the poor, serve the poor, build community among the poor – and love the poor compelled by the love of God.

Celebrate Jesus’ Birthday by Fighting Ebola and Saving Lives!

Please, please watch this quick 3-minute video about the Vineyard’s response to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. Our brothers and sisters need out help and what better way to celebrate Jesus’ birthday than to help the dieing, the poor and the hungry…

Watch the video, read about what is happening, and then donate funds to help the fight to save lives. Together we can be the hands and feed of Jesus to change the world for His glory.


The Reformation Era in Pentecostalism

On October 13, 2010 Pentecostal pastor Samuel Lee posted 15 Theses from his home in Amsterdam that have the potential to transform the global Pentecostal movement.  That may sound like a bold statement – but it is a true one as these 15 Theses lay open the Pentecostal movement as Martin Luther’s 95 Theses did to the Roman Catholic Church all those years ago.

I pray with my whole heart that the Pentecostal movement will humbly accept these Theses and work towards reforming their movement as the greater Church NEEDS their input and passion. I pray this as one who, while currently not within Pentecostal movement per say, grew up within Pentecostalism (my family tree is covered with Pentecostal pastors and leaders) and has a love for the greater body of Jesus regardless of doctrines, styles or labels.

[Below is a brief summary of Samuel Lee’s full paper – which I would HIGHLY recommend reading as he gives a lot more detail on each of these 15 Theses]

Reforming Pentecostalism

1. Emotionalism versus Balance

Pentecostalism should direct her followers into a deeper understanding of the Word that involves experiencing the Christian faith and church in a broader framework of knowledge. The Pentecostal movement lacks essential knowledge on how to practice faith in a more balanced way and in understanding the Word in a wider context relating to the global society. The Pentecostal movement indeed does offer her own theology on exegesis (interpreting the Bible) and practical matters on individual levels, but we give less attention to essential global and societal matters. We have thousands of books written about prosperity and how to get blessed, or how to become rich in order to have villa’s and private jets for the ministry, yet far more than half of the Christians in these ministries are red in their bank accounts, suffering in poverty not only in the developing world but also in the so called “First World”.

2. Demand to perform versus being yourself

Secondly, there is an over emphasis on performance, numbers and prestige. Let me explain: it is no more about souls, but about numbers….In this Reformation of Pentecostalism, however, we should not focus on numbers but on the fellowship of the human spirit with God, the breaking of the bread and drinking the wine which is the sign of the new covenant!

Lately, I have the impression, as a professing and preaching Christian, there is a demand for me to perform! To perform miracles, to perform in order for people fall on the floor, to perform a prophesy etc. I am tired of this “demanding me to perform”. The Post Modern man needs a new kind of Pentecostal leadership, the kind of ministers who are honest and just. We do not have to perform but be honest in pouring out our hearts, and in speaking about our weakness and confessing them to one another!

Continue reading The Reformation Era in Pentecostalism

The Charismatic church has enough superstars…

“The Charismatic church has enough superstars, far too many miracle makers with jets and bodyguards, but I am looking for a day when the Charismatic church will produce Mother Theresas, Martin Luther Kings and even Mahatma Gandhis….

“I am a Pentecostal pastor. I am very well aware of my background. I like signs and wonders, but I love justice more. I like to see the dead are being raised, but love righteousness more. I like to see people feeling “high” in the spirit, but I love sacrifice more.  I may like some tele-evangelists, but I love Jesus more. I like to be touch by the spirit and laugh continually, but I love to cry for justice more. A Christianity that is not standing for the rights of the fragile, for the undocumented migrants, for the poor and the suffering, for the widows and orphans is a worthless Christianity. It is simply a dead religion, even though it has a sign of liveliness.”

Samuel Lee, a pastor among the immigrant and refugees community in Amsterdam (Netherlands)

Hunger Free Community Initiative

There were approximately 40~ folks at the meeting

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the “Gem Community FEAST (Food, Education, Agriculture Solutions Together)” meeting at the local country seed (“Gem Community” is a reference to Gem Country where I live).

This meeting brought together concerned citizens, local city and country government officials, non-profit leaders, and faith groups to look at the food system in our area.

It was a time of assessing the local food system (production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste) as well as the food security of the community.

Food Security is a “condition in which all community residents obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system that maximized community self-reliance and social justice.” (-Mike Hamm and Anne Bellows)

With an unemployment rate of 12.4% (July 2011) and an overall county poverty of 14.8% (2009 US Census), food security is a big concern in our area. Our only saving grace is that we are a rural county with room for people to grow gardens and run a few head of cattle (not to mention chickens, goats and hogs).

Yet, even with that ‘luxury’ there is still a big need in our community (God Community Food Pantry in Sweet is currently serving around 400 folks a month – granted a lot of those people come from neighboring counties as Sweet lays near the county line).

Continue reading Hunger Free Community Initiative

“Doing Reconciliation” by Alexander Venter

Written out of the pain and the horror of the South African apartheid, this book was one of the hardest and most challenging books I have ever read.

As I sit here are write, it is hard to really put into words the depth into which the message of this book went.

I think the best thing to do is to share with two paragraphs from Venter’s book that shows the heart behind it:

“I want to mention a phrase that I learnt in the boiling pot of Soweto [the black township outside of Johannesburg] in the mid-1980s. It struck deep into my consciousness and has been part of the formation of my life. It was “doing theology.” We did not study theology, we did theology by engaging in the struggle for justice. Many pastors and academics were challenged by young black people to stop their theoretical theologizing and eloquent sermonizing about justice and reconciliation. They were challenged to get out of their ivory towers and protected places, and come down to the place of pain and struggle and “do theology” in the streets with the poor and oppressed. Doing theology in this way, and debating the contextual theological issues, was my bread and butter in the 1980s and early 1990s.

In Joweto [a place of reconciliation started by Venter within Soweto], doing theology meant that you got your hands dirty, that you learnt (authentic ) theology by coming to know God as you engaged in the praxis of identification with the poor and oppressed. In so doing, you did God’s praxis: in Jesus God stripped himself of power and glory, humbled himself by coming down from heaven to earth, to identify with human pain and suffering, and to seek and save that which was lost. There was a favorite quote of the contextual-doing-theologians that I mixed with in Soweto: “For as much as you did it to these, the least of my brethren, you did it to me” (Matt 25:40).”

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 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

Continue reading Vineyard Values Series: Compassionate Ministry

Thinking UpStream: Fighting The Causes Of Poverty

Scott SabinScott Sabin  “messed up”.

Yep. I think he should have titled his new book “Thinking UpStream: Fighting The Causes Of Poverty” instead of “Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God’s People.

Why? Because Scott’s book isn’t just about being good stewards of God’s creation – it is a book geared towards getting past the symptoms of rural poverty and focusing on the root causes. It is a fantastic book showing the holistic nature of poverty and all the factors attributing to it.

For example, farmers in Haiti can no longer grow crops on their land due to the land being depleted, which leads them to cutting down trees to make charcoal to sell in town. The removal of the trees weakens the soil, leading to erosion that further destroys the land which washes downstream to the ocean, where it becomes a ‘hazard to fisheries and coral reefs.’

Meanwhile, the deforestation of the area leads to a decrease in rainfall and changes in precipitation – not to mention the fact that if there are no trees, then the water in the ground cannot get filtered properly, leading to polluted drinking water. Polluted water in turn causes sickness and disease which places more pressure on the farmer to find some kind of income in order to buy food and medicine for his family. Putting us right back to the beginning of the cycle.

The crazy part is that these farmers know what they are doing. They know that by cutting down the trees they are causing long term problems. But they also have a proverb, “Either this tree must die, or I must die in its place” (Haitian proverb).

In an effort to break the cycle, Scott and Plant With Purpose (the organization he leads) focus on repairing five different relationships:

“To heal humanity’s relationship with creation, Plant With Purpose encourages reforestation and sustainable agriculture. Providing economic opportunities by encouraging local enterprise creation addresses the relationships between people, as it levels the playing field for the disadvantaged and helps families stay together. Discipleship focuses on our relationship with God. By helping others follow Jesus and obey his commandments, thus fulfilling the Great Commission, we help to create a foundation upon which future development can be built.”

In a nutshell, if you are interested in thinking upstream and seeing how rural poverty can be stopped, then I would recommend reading Scott’s book Tending To Eden.”  Then I would pick up Jayakumar Christian’s “God of the Empty-Handed: Poverty, Power and the Kingdom of God.” Read those two books and you will have a good foundation.

After that – well, go DO something.

  • Go help those in your community that need help (i.e. food banks, homeless shelters, community gardens, etc).
  • Support those who are both sharing God’s message of hope and thinking upstream (i.e. Plant With Purpose or other such groups).
  • Be radical and change your lifestyle from a consumer driven one to a more sustainable one (i.e. buy less, use less, be happier)

And above all, pray. Pray for those in need and for those working along side them. Pray for His rule and reign to come on earth as it is in heaven.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Please note that I received this book free of cost from Plant With Purpose.  I was not required to write a positive review – meaning that all opinions expressed are my own and where not influenced by Plant With Purpose or Scott Sabin. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”