4 Ways in Which I Help the Poor –Answering a Common Question

Before I plunge into today’s topic, I want to give a report that’s both sad and encouraging.

I’ve been blogging since 2008 and my recent post, Rick Warren’s Horrific Tragedy & the Sickening Response of Some Christians was the most viewed article that I’ve ever written, by far and away.

At the present time, that post has had over 4k Facebook shares.

The reason why this is sad is because of what I felt forced to write in that post. I was once again addressing the sickening behavior of “Christians” who eat their own. That would include the act of judging, misrepresenting, and even lying about their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

The encouraging part is that more and more evangelical Christians are fed up with the ugly behavior of their “professing” Christian friends who don’t wince at attacking other followers of Jesus. And they are no longer standing for it. See my post Warning: The World is Watching How We Christians Treat One Another, another article on the topic that has had massive views.

God’s people are wising up to the tactics of online trolls. And they are more apt to recognize slander and completely dismiss those who spread it. People who stoop so low as to personally attack others in a public way lose credibility fast. In Matthew 18, Jesus gave very clear instructions on what to do if we have an issue or concern about a brother or sister in Christ.

People who ignore this text sin against God and against others. (The exception, of course, is if a crime has taken place. In those cases the authorities should be contacted immediately.)

To use a metaphor, the people who attacked Rick Warren online were given rope and they ended up hanging themselves. They cast a net for our brother, and God turned it around to catch them in it. (That image comes from the Psalms of David during the time when he was being unmercifully and unjustly attacked.)

Watchman Nee – who was no stranger to being a victim of lies, distortions, and personal attacks during his lifetime and afterward – once said, “If people trust us, there is no need to explain; if people do not trust is, there is no use in explaining.”

Nee was speaking out of firsthand experience. (Perhaps I’ll talk about that another time in a future post.)

Anyway, I’m delighted that my post about Rick Warren went viral and has received so many positive responses.

Let’s continue to lift our brother and his family up to the Lord. It’s going to take a very long time for healing to take place in their hearts.

Now on to the subject at hand.

As you know, over the last few years, I’ve shifted my focus from organic missional church to working with the poor and engaging in sharing the gospel with the lost. In that connection, I’ve had a number of people ask me how I specifically help the poor.

Here’s a question on that score from my FAQ page. (To date, the FAQ page has 15 questions and answers. You may be interested in checking it out later.)

Question: I know you’ve not been involved in organic church for a few years now to focus on the poor and write about Jesus studies (see, I pay attention to your blog). But can you share a little about what you do in helping the poor? I’m super interested in this.

My answer: Sure. There are four layers to it:

1) There are three adults who I help on a regular basis with financial support, emotional support, and spiritual support. They are all poor and unable to work for various reasons.

2) I volunteer at a nearby ministry regularly that has a soup kitchen, a thrift store, and a food pantry. They also help people apply for jobs and give guidance on how the homeless can find housing. Many of the people who work at this ministry are poor themselves and I’m developing relationships with them.

3) I carry with me an envelope that has money, a short note about Jesus and the gospel, and the phone numbers of two organizations that help the poor and the homeless locally. Whenever I come in contact with people who need help (often in parking lots, etc., asking for money), I give them one of the envelopes. Brennan Manning inspired this idea years ago, but I’ve upgraded it a bit. In line with that, I sometimes will buy a person a meal when they ask me for money on the street.

4) I support two global organizations that I like a lot: Bread for the World and Heifer International. You can look them up online. That’s a quick sketch. See also Blessed Are the Undesirable and Following Your Spiritual Instincts Regarding the Poor.

If you are involved in helping the poor, can you add any other points to my list?

If you find this post helpful, you are free to ADD A LINK to it on your blog or website. But don’t copy and paste the post as this violates Google’s guidelines.

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Comments

  1. Timothy says

    I am interested to know what your letter says inside your envelope. As a teenager, I accepted a lot of help from others. People fed me, clothed me, and all the in between. I grew up in church (a big one) and ended up getting fed up with it all. I stopped going to church and at the same time my family hit rock bottom. I began to work a part time job and like I started with, I also received a lot of help from others and now I pray the Lord would bless those people seventy times seven for their love and blessings towards me, but I’ll continue. Some people would share the gospel with me or tell me the reason they are helping me is because of Jesus or because I needed to be in church again, blah blah. I understand that now as a Christian and now I have a very strong and unshakable relationship with the Lord, but back then it
    “turned me off” when people would help me, then mention something about God, church, or religion.

    I met very few people that helped me and walked off without making sure I knew a bible verse or making sure I knew what church they went to, etc. I think some people just need help, not church service hours and what not. I think you get my point.

    With all that being said, What does your note say?

    Thanks for your time, Frank.

  2. says

    Hi Frank, I really like your idea of having the envelope for the guys asking for money. I usually have some bibles in my truck that I stick some cash in and give them a copy of Andrew Murray’s “The Believer’s New Life” book too. I saw your previous comment about the piece of paper you give them with The Gospel and how you would have to scan it. Did you happen to ever do that? I would be interested in it as well. I can write something up myself, and I will plan on doing that actually, but I would like to see what you have if you were able to scan it.

    Much love brother, even though you don’t know me I pray for you often
    Keith

    • says

      Thanks. I’d encourage you to make your own. It’s just a paragraph about the love of Christ and His death and resurrection for salvation. I don’t have time to fetch and scan. Sorry.

  3. says

    We have a very active Food Pantry through our church. We have a dedicated team of volunteers that spend eight hours each Tuesday blessing families in need with food. They also spend time praying with them and sharing the Gospel. Many of those that come for help regularly volunteer to help around the church. Once a month the Atlanta Food Bank will deliver 10K+ pounds of food which will be given away in about two hours. Several other churches partner with us to help volunteer for this event each week. Many of the people in need will show up several hours before the food arrives. This gives us plenty of time to pray with them. We hope to add a clothes closet soon.

    On a smaller note: I am a bi-vocational Pastor, so I work a full time job in downtown Atlanta. I usually try to keep several, “homeless kits” in my car. They often consist, of toiletries, clean socks, snacks and small booklet on one of the gospels. It is humbling for a man to tell how thankful he is for a clean pair of socks.

  4. Adrian says

    Frank, you asked for any other points to your list and so I will add this (it is in a similar vein to what Vinny said – after a fashion!?): do not be gnostic and separate the practical (material) from the spiritual.

    This clearly requires a bit of explanation, so please bear with my waffle :-)

    Several years back, just after I had left institutional church, I felt God asked me to read the John 3 section about being born again. To cut a long story short, I had this conversation (I really hope) with Him. It went like this:

    ““Unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of heaven…” So how many births?”

    So I answered, “At least 2”

    “Which one is more important?”

    PANIC!! Now my mind was working frantically. The second one is impossible without the first one. And I really wouldn’t want the first one without the second…???

    To which I felt Him say something like, “So why separate the two? Jesus is still a man. I want you to combine the material, the practical, with the spiritual. The two should never have been separated.” After which I seriously fell out with the typical church ‘healing line’. (Do we sometimes want people to be healed to save ourselves the bother of having to care for them – ouch – been stung by that one!)

    Anyway, several months later I was with one of the poor that I had taken to looking after. She was a transsexual on methadone whilst she came off heroin and was having muscle spasms so she smoked a joint to relax her muscles whilst I fixed her washing machine. A few moments later we had a call from another girl we knew who was terminally ill and on her own. She was in a bad way and fairly hysterical. So we jumped in the car and quickly drove round to her. When we arrived I found that she was unable to stand as her foot and lower leg had twisted in such a way that to me seemed impossible. Her disease had already made it hard for her to get about and she was only in her early 30s.

    Time for a good, old, faith filled prayer: “Jesus help!!” Ten minutes later found me scared and confused, sitting at the feet of this good looking and single female, massaging cannabis cream into her calf muscles whilst her transsexual, stoned friend read Isaiah 53 and I prayed. All the while I was expressing thanks that I was no longer in the institution otherwise I would have been excommunicated or flogged for this one!! Fifteen minutes later she was walking, jumping and laughing and able to take herself to the loo etc. It was a miraculous recovery.

    So, driving home somewhat confused and hoping that I wasn’t going to get stopped by the police as I was paranoid about the way I must have smelt (very green!), I was praying and asked Jesus what all that was about – what actually healed her?? The massage, the cream, the prayer, the scripture…? He said, “All of the above. Why separate them?”

    This is the lesson I was taught in dealing with the poor that day. Sometimes holding their hand whilst they cry, giving them a massage, or doing their washing up for them, or standing with them in court, is as important and as valuable as a prayer and a miracle. If we are in Jesus, He is in all things we do. So never underestimate the power of a good work. That was my lesson that day and my answer to your question: do not be gnostic and separate the practical (material) from the spiritual.

    Incidentally, your last major post on working with the poor and the lost really encouraged me in it’s honesty. Thank you. It really can be tough!!

  5. Nancy says

    Thanks everyone for caring selflessly for the poor and lonely. Oddly enough, we need them as much as they need us.

  6. says

    My wife and I found an unused gym connected to a church. We made a deal to sponsor a basketball night for the many gang kids living around and not attending the church. The church gave up using the gym because it cost too much to heat and air condition.

    We cleaned, supplied hot dogs, chips, cookies and sodas and opened the big doors to the gym on a Saturday night. We paid for it all. We never advertised.

    On the 1st night we had 130 kids drop by from different gangs. We played together, ate together and had a short devotional.

    Now our gym is open every night, kids play, eat and take food home to their hungry families. We have a full time Chaplain Coach and to date, several hundred kids have come to know Jesus in their lives.

    The folks attending the church next door barely know of our existence, yet we are seeing a huge impact on our community.

    How blessed we feel and are for this opportunity to serve our Lord Jesus Christ.

  7. Charles Wood says

    Frank,
    Thank you for helping Rick Warren. Jesus will have tears in His eyes when He hears such ungodly expressions.

  8. Nathan Lambshead says

    When I was working, rather than sick and unemployed, I used to buy 10-25 dollar gift certificates to the local grocery store every week when I went shopping. I put a little card with a note from me as to why I was giving them out, along with an email and phone number to reach me if they wanted, in envelopes which I handed out when I was shopping, to anyone I could easily see needed help. I was also able to help two different families I knew of in a real way, with enough grocery money for their families for a month. If I had not put a little towards it every week I never would have had it at the needed time, which is just a fact of life whether you earn a little or a lot. I hope to be working one day and do it again.

  9. Keith says

    Love your ideas Frank. One of the things that I do along with about 12 men from our church is once a month we have a “service day” for widows and single moms. Some of them live on as little as $700 to $900 per month. Each widow has a team of men who assess their needs and each month will spend 3-4 hours on a Saturday working on their home, car, mowing equipment, etc. These men are dedicated to helping these ladies “long term.” In addition to them doing the work, they also give of their own money to buy much of the supplies needed. This was inspired by New Commandment Men’s Ministry and Herb Reese. We are committed to fulfilling James 1:27.

    • says

      I’d have to scan it, and presently, I’m without a scanner. See my post “Rethinking the Gospel” … it’s a short version of that with emphasis on God’s love in Christ.

  10. says

    Concerning being eager to criticise and give your own sharp-edged opinion about the misfortune of others, I also read Watchman Nee’s biography and studied his situation. I’m really interested to find out more what do you think about him. He was forced to go and work to support his co-workers who were dying due to the lack of food and medicine and jobs… – but he was very much criticized because of this!

    What really matters both in Rick Warren’s case and in bro. Nee’s case is the ministry of life. If Rick experiences Christ as life and he ministers Christ to the Body of Christ even in such a pressing and harsh situation, he is one with Christ as the wine-producing vine to impart life to the other members of the Body of Christ for their growth in life, so much needed today….

    • says

      Anyone who is doing the Lord’s work and God’s favor and power is on it will incur the assault of the enemy, which typically comes in the form of lies, slander, and false accusations. (Jesus said the devil was the father of lies and his name means “slanderer” – he’s also called the “accuser of the brethren.”)

      Nee’s story is horribly sad. He had other workers who were jealous of him and then others who didn’t like his decisions and then weaved false narratives to smear his name. Unfortunately, many Christians … because they are gullible … believed the lies. He suffered much. I’m glad I got to talk with Angus Kinnear (his biographer) and meet Stephen Kaung who knew our brother’s character. Nee wasn’t a perfect many by any means and he didn’t have a perfect past (who does?), but the lies about him were horrible. He was a man of God and has helped millions, including this brother who is writing these words.

      Rick is a brother and a servant of God. Not perfect (no servant of God is perfect), but the junk being spread about him is false and the way he’s being treated by some is unspeakable. Thankfully more and more Christians are getting fed up with it, so we’re seeing the tide turn on this kind of behavior.

  11. says

    Frank, I like your idea about having money and information in envelopes ready to hand out, but I’m always a little leery of giving money to strangers. Instead, I usually offer to buy them a meal or gas, etc.

    My hangup is this: I don’t want to support someone’s drug habit, etc by giving them money to buy these things with. Is that a valid concern, or should we just give them the money and leave their intentions to God?

    • says

      Michael: I understand. However, often I encounter folks when I’m on the run, going to a meeting, etc. So in those cases, I’m unable to take them to a restaurant or buy them food, etc. When I have time, I do (which I believe I mentioned).

      But when I’m unable to, I’d rather give them $5 than nothing at all. And I leave what they do with it to the Lord. But it’s something. And the envelope also has other things that can help. The money is a good faith gesture. It’s enough to get them a buss pass to a nearby shelter or buy a fast food meal. But not really enough to “support” a drug habit.

      • says

        That makes sense. I have done similar when pressed for time, but I always feel a little uncomfortable about it. Maybe I’ve just unearthed a prayer concern for myself, learning to trust God with things that are out of my hands.

        Thanks for shining a little light on that.

    • Vinny says

      Michael I and many others have wrestled with that and other things like it. I partly because I have no local group have been led by the Spirit to live with and focus on the needy. Now more than ever do I experience people in need with out addiction and mental health reasons but ALL have the need to be loved and accepted and weather you have time or money and a note of encouragement they need to see the love and way of Jesus. It is contagious and after 3 years here i see this needy community OneAnothering like Christ although not many have layed hold of Jesus and by Church standards my work here is a failure and I would be fired. Love never fails!

      PS: I like the quote by Watchman Nee – who was no stranger to being a victim of lies, distortions, and personal attacks during his lifetime and afterward – once said, “If people trust us, there is no need to explain; if people do not trust is, there is no use in explaining.”
      I have had recent conversations about not wasting to much time or effort defending our selves as difficult as it is. If God is serving through us He will be opposed but take heart HE can take it.

  12. says

    I make arrangements with a local restaurant to pick up their day-old food to distribute to an org or church that feeds the hungry. I pick up Panera bread – cooly called “doughnations” and drop off at Lasos – a program for immigrants/Hispanics in our community. I’m building relationships on both ends of the supply chain.

  13. Michael Todd says

    Samuel’s two sons turn out to be his mirror opposites. One of Jesus’ closest students betrays him. Demas abandoned Paul.

    But, I am sure that if social media would have been around then, there would have been comments about Samuel’s poor parenting, Jesus’ incompetence as a Rabbi, and how Paul can’t control his own people.

    • says

      Good point. Also, with the exception of Jesus, every person whom God used mightily in Scripture — from Abraham, to Moses, to David, to Peter, to Paul — were very fallen people. Just like every one of us. But how their mistakes would have been spun in today’s world would have been over-the-top unbelievable. See my post on “Jesus and Paul Under Fire” just to see the list of false narratives that were weaved against them during their lifetimes. It’s rather sobering://frankviola.org/2012/10/01/jesusandpaulunderfire/

      Today I have more respect for RICK WARREN than I ever have . . . because he’s NOT shooting back at his enemies. That speaks volumes on his behalf. As I’ve often said, how we respond to those who attack, lie about, unjustly criticize, and seek to destroy us speaks volumes of our spiritual stature. Perhaps more than any other metric.

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