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Reflection: Compassion and Discipleship

Andy Vincent, Emeritus Pastor, Southend Vineyard

Caring for the poor is at the very heart of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

Our first visit to a Vineyard church was 18 years ago and one of the things that caught our attention during the 90 minutes of worship, teaching and prayer was the constant stream of people coming in, going to the tea and coffee area, having a drink and walking out with a bulging Tesco carrier bag. It took a few weeks before we realised this was the compassion ministry in action; the bags were full of food. My observation is that not everybody is comfortable with ministry with and to the poor. Well they are if someone else is doing it and they don’t have someone they think is poor and unkempt sitting next to them as they sing about the presence and love of God. But caring for the poor is at the very heart of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. We can’t get away from that without severely truncating the message of Jesus (or the message of the bible). Caring for the poor is not at the expense of student ministry or worship or Bible teaching or loving one another anymore than learning to write is at the expense of learning to talk or run. Because it is in our DNA it should grow naturally from the very core of our being both as individuals and as churches.

Years ago I watched a documentary about Mother Teresa’s nuns in Calcutta. In the morning they were in their chapel (situated right next to a very busy, dusty road), praying, worshipping and meditating on scripture. In the afternoon they were out in the streets ministering with the poorest of the poor. What a great picture of what it is to have caring for the poor as a central value.

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