The way that some churches try to “minister to homeless people” is by driving up to the park where all the homeless people gather, opening the side door, throwing out a bunch of crates of food onto the sidewalk, and then peeling off down the road to get out of there as quick as possible.
Then they give a report at church the next Sunday at how they served and fed the homeless… just like Jesus.
Such ministry is “Hit and Run Christian Service.” We drive up, hit some homeless people with food and Gospel tracts, and then get get out of there with tires squealing.
Or maybe it is closer to Christian drug dealing. We pull up in a windowless van, and handout sandwiches and gospel tracks from the back, and then tell them we’ll be back next week.
Part of the problem is this whole “ministry to” idea. Loving others is not exactly when we do something “to” people. Loving like Jesus means that others serve and minister to us just as much as we serve and minister to them. Or maybe more.
True Christian ministry begins with developing relationships with others, and more often than not, we find that we are the ones ministered to, rather than the ones doing the ministry. That’s why I put “minister to homeless people” in quote marks above.
Christian service actually means loving people and being loved. Christian ministry is not something we do to people, but with people.
Showing love to the homeless people often means receiving love back. Love from Jesus.
Most of our friends are afraid of the homeless, and have many misconceptions about them. Yes, the streets can be very dangerous. So far, however, we have been safe walking among our homeless friends. We touch them, hug them and spend time with them and even pet their dogs, including the pit bulls.
Relationship is very important. Homeless people need to see that they are valued, whether they’re a vet just returning from Afghanistan or an addict who has been on the street twenty years. They are not human garbage, and they deserve better than the garbage people sometimes give them.
When I get a chance I’ll write a couple of posts – One about the homeless and Jesus (some dislike churches and Christians, others are Jesus followers, but most like Jesus), and one about observations the homeless make to us about the people who show up on their turf to “minister” to them (whose attitudes range from condescension, which is very common, to love, which is very uncommon).
Jeremy Myers says
Sam, I am looking forward to those posts. Where I live, the warmer weather is starting to arrive, and we are seeing more and more homeless people come around.
Bob Singleton says
I pulled up by a homeless guy with a cardboard sign once. Rolled down my window and said, hop in and I’ll buy you lunch. He was shocked but he threw his sign down and got in the car. I told him that I won’t treat him like a beggar but I’ll buy him lunch like a friend.
and then… when you tell them that God is not mad at them for getting drunk or whatever, they like listening too.
Most homeless guys really avoid Christians because they get sooooo many “be good” messages. You know the type, the typical Christian message that says you have got to stop drinking and work harder and all. Hey, I don’t tell them what they have to do. I prefer to have a beer with them.
Some guy, just out of prison and looking for work. I took him to lunch and bought us a beer. Praise you Jesus for freedom from religious rules.
Jeremy Myers says
Awesome. Such an approach makes some scared, and I confess I haven’t done this myself yet… though my wife did once! Just her and our three girls in the car, and she picked up a hitchhiker on her way to church and drove him about 50 miles to where he wanted to go. Needless to say, she didn’t make it “to church” that day, but she was being the church for sure!
Soli Deo Gloria says
You forgot one thing, Jeremy — they like to have the TV cameras rolling for those “ministry moments”….
Jeremy Myers says
Ha! That’s right! Many ministries get performed so that the church name and website conveniently get shown on TV in the background….