"Making a Feast for Jesus" - Chapter 2
[Created to Flourish, by Peter Greer and Phil Smith, is an e-book available from Hope International, a microfinance ministry with whom Mission Resource finds much in common. It is an excellent book about a nuanced approach to ministry among the poor through lending. With the busyness of your life, we thought it might be helpful to provide summaries of the book’s chapters here on our blog, but we encourage you to read the book for yourself. It is available for free as a PDF from Hope International’s website: https://www.hopeinternational.org/createdtoflourish ]
Chapter 2 – Making a Feast for Jesus
Author Phil Smith explores possible answers to a “key question” for any sort of ministry: “Is serving those in poverty a distraction from our ‘core’ mission of evangelism and discipleship, or is it a necessary ingredient?” (p.33) Stated another way, the question becomes “How much of the Church’s precious resources should be used to contend with the genuine problem of poverty?” (p.31)
Modern churches often separate evangelism from charity. They even get their own distinct committees. But when we do this, are we following Jesus’ lead?
Jesus announces his personal mission (in Luke 4:18-19) by quoting a passage from Isaiah:
“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 liberty to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Smith points out that Jesus’ mission has “both concrete and spiritual dimensions” and that “Jesus lived this full definition of release by combining care for the physical person with care for the soul”. (p.36)
Jesus lived out a profound combination of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. This combination was held also by the early disciples and exercised by the early Church. In fact, through most of church history, the Body of Christ’s responsibility to meet both spiritual and physical needs found widespread common practice.
It wasn’t until the Great Awakening of the early 1700s that a split occurred within the Body. Some church leaders began to place “a strong emphasis on just preaching and conversion” and getting souls to heaven while others specialized in social reform. (p.42)
And then the U.S. government got involved and soon “the work of addressing physical needs was increasingly seen as government work, while the Church increased its focus on the spiritual realm”. (p.45)
Smith believes the time is right for Christians to re-integrate the care for physical needs with the care for spiritual needs. If we can get there, Smith maintains that we will see the following:
· Increased effectiveness – The spiritual and physical are so closely related in experience, that the most effective ministry must address both.
· A reenergized Church – We are meant to serve the world and when we live into that purpose, we find greater fulfillment.
· The correction of an image problem – Too often today, Christians are known mostly for what we stand against. Serving the world’s physical and spiritual needs is a profoundly positive action.
· A platform from which to build relationships – Without service to the physical needs around us, we are cut off from meaningful relationship with so many of those for whom Jesus died.
At first glance, the work of Mission Resource may leave one with the impression that we are solely focused on caring for people’s physical needs as we seek to empower individuals to rise out of poverty. From our founding, though, we have never lost sight of Jesus’ profound question: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world if he loses his soul?” (Mark 8:36) This is why our ministry focuses on both business training and discipleship. And why we work with and for local churches.
The Great Commission AND the Great Commandment – they belong together like chocolate and peanut butter. 😉