Scriptural Basis for Engaging Churches in Ministries with the Homeless
At our October 2014 Bridge of Hope National Conference one workshop was entitled, “Scriptural Basis for Engaging Churches in Ministries with the Homeless.’’ Five persons were asked to serve on a panel which I had the privilege of leading. I say it was a privilege because it proved to be a high energy experience for these Christian practitioners rooted in Scripture and engaged in a broad variety of ministries.
Each panel member was assigned a section of the Bible from which she/he was asked to identify 3-5 passages that speak to the church’s ministry with the poor and homeless. The passages offered ranged from all parts of the Bible. Some of the passages identified are listed below.
The panel members shared the scriptures, and told stories of how these passages speak to them and the people they serve. Some of the stories indicated the difficulty we sometimes have in knowing how to respond to those in need. One poignant story was shared by a panel member involved in a local Bridge of Hope who encountered a woman at a traffic light asking for assistance. Being in a hurry he moved through the light without responding to her need. But the scene remained heavy in his heart. About four weeks later he was distributing food baskets for St. Vincent de Paul and knocked on a door, only to again face the woman whom he had declined helping weeks earlier. This man found grace in being given another opportunity to offer help.
The broader themes that emerged from the panel’s scriptural study included:
- What does true religion look like? (Matthew 25:31-46)
- It’s all about relationships (John 13:34-35)
- It’s grounded in transformed communities (Acts 2:43-47)
- The importance of being present to people (I John 3:16-18)
- Who is my neighbor? (Luke 10: 29-37)
- Keeping a vision of God’s intentions for us (Isaiah 61:1-2)
- Keeping present to God (Luke 24, Emmaus story)
- Housing for all (Isaiah 65:21-22)
Motivating churches to provide mentors, finding volunteers for Bridge of Hope ministries, recruiting board members, and keeping our own lives grounded in the compassion of Christ can all be sustained by reference to Scriptures that sweep through the entire Bible inviting us to fulfill the mission of God in the world.
(Other scriptures that were shared at the Conference include: Psalm 146, Proverbs 14:31, Isaiah 58:6-12, Jeremiah 22:13-17, Acts 6: 1-6, I Corinthians 12, James 1;22-25, 2 John 1:3-6)
Jim Lapp, Bridge of Hope National Board Chair