There is just one requirement that cannot be lost in the midst of all the challenges and hurdles of living out faith and building community. Did you remember the Poor?
I have a distinct memory of sitting in my study one day as I was pulling together thoughts and materials related to stepping out on yet another church planting adventure. I was quite excited, feeling that rush of risking faith that these types of pioneering ventures demand, ready to pull together my demographics, cultural analyses and various and sundry cool ideas that I was envisioning for this new emerging community.
In the midst of the swirl of documents, scribbles, ear-tagged books, notes and the latest DVDs….was my bible
In the midst of the swirl of documents, scribbles, ear-tagged books, notes and the latest DVDs – on everything from relevant communication trends to systems and community development – was my Bible. Open.
Staring up at me were the words given to Paul as he was launching on his first foray into church planting and mission. Peter, James and John, considered to be the pillars of the early Church in every regard, agreed that it was time for Paul to step out. To risk. To put his hand to the call on his life to participate in the expanding kingdom of heaven through missional endeavors out into the Gentile world far out of the reach of Jerusalem and Samaria.
Their words of instruction to Paul were there on the page burning not just into my eyes, but into my heart as well.
As Paul would step out he would become the first intentional missionary and church planter in the history of the Church. The gospel had spread to many places of the world through persecution and the dispersion of believers for various reasons. But this was a first. This was important. The key elements of the gospel of the kingdom must be proclaimed and modelled.
Pretty big stuff.
The thing Peter, James and John said to Paul was not just gripping my heart, but shifting my thinking. In fact, the more I pondered what I was reading, I began to get somewhat angry as I looked up in my study to see, as Wimber would say, ‘words, words, words, words’ – so much instruction; teaching; training information about faith; life and the church. I couldn’t remember anyone in the midst of all these ‘words’ telling me what Paul was told.
I was ticked. Why had I never heard this before?
‘All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing that I was eager to do all along’ (Paul the Apostle, Gal. 2:10).
That’s all they asked. Full stop. At the one-year evaluation as to how things at your church are going, there is only one question on the exam. At the two-year point, just one question still. At the 10- year mark, there is just one requirement that cannot be lost in the midst of all the challenges and hurdles of living out faith and building community:
The more I walk this journey in my own life and in the midst of the community of faith I realize that this one simple request is more and more central than I ever dreamed to the understanding of the gospel, the call to follow Christ, and the mission of the Church.
Remember the poor. Don’t forget the poor.