I thought it was about time for an update on what’s going on with me.
I took a week unpaid leave a couple weeks ago and went to Chico. I got to spend a lot of time with Erica, Jason, Sean & Piña. I also got to spend time with Pat & Andi Mathers, and that was very special to me. Pat has a lot of vision and passion for what his new church is all about, and it resonated when he shared it with me. It coincides with things I’ve been learning from my own Bible studies, and from books I’ve been reading, podcasts I’ve been listening to (John Piper, Derek Webb), and the music I’m listening to as well (Derek Webb, The Discarded, Billy Bragg). The topic that I think the Holy Spirit is putting on my heart is that of intentional poverty.
I recently had the opportunity to apologize to my friend Chase for not keeping my doors opened to him at a point last summer when he needed it. The reason I shut him out was because the doors had been shut on me, metaphorically speaking. I was unemployed at the time, and then when I got a new job, it was at about half of what I was making before. Still, compared to millions of people in Africa and Asia, I was living like a king. In my current financial situation, I found myself wishing I could do it all over again, with the money I’m making now. I’d totally be able to take care of people! However, recently a whole change has come about in my thinking about this, and that is, I need to get rid of that italicized “with” part at the end of the do-it-all-over-again statement.
God is my provider, whether I’m making what I’m making now, or minimum wage, or am unemployed. We’re supposed to take care of one another. Even if you’re unemployed, but still have a roof over your head, well, you still have something to give to another person who is also unemployed but does not have a roof. And it’s worth the risk, even if you both end up on the street later on. At least you won’t be alone. I still wish I could do it all over again, even without the cash. And I now recognize that I should have poured myself out and given of what little I had at that time.
Jesus said whatever you do to the least of these, you do it unto me.
I have my friends in Chico to thank for this whole shift in mindset. If it wasn’t for them, I’d probably have gotten a new car by now, and if I had, then I wouldn’t have the flexibility and freedom to do what I think might very well be the next step. And this is what I mean by intentional poverty: I am praying about quitting my job and moving back to Chico, even if the only job I can get there is one for $8/hr. Life is not about your career. It’s about what you do for the Kingdom, and the value you have in being a friend to others, and, most importantly, in glorifying God. A career can actually distract you from this. And if you value health insurance and retirement savings more than doing the work of the Kingdom, then there’s something wrong with you.
When Pat was talking about The Orchard, there were two things he mentioned that stood out to me in a big way. First, he mentioned how the church was given opportunities to move into a building on the other side of town, but they turned it down and decided to remain in Chapmantown, among the poor. One reason they did this is because there are people in that church who can only come because it’s within walking distance. If the church moved to California Park or the Pleasant Valley area, they wouldn’t be able to come. Also, they believe the people they are supposed to reach are the people in that area who aren’t being targeted by any other ministries.
Secondly, Pat said the pastor does not go out of the way to please rich people, or to make sure that they are not offended. He even spoke of an instance when rich people got up and left in the middle of the service because they were uncomfortable among the homeless. I think that’s great! I think as a Christian, you hope that your leaders would truly be above reproach, and that they would have a biblical mindset that would not play favorites, but the sad thing is that this is not usually the case. Jesus even spoke about this whole place of honor thing, saying, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11, ESV). Similary, Christ’s own brother, James the Just, wrote:
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? (James 2:1-7, ESV)
With so many modern evangelical churches in America going the way of the megachurch, with expensive mortgages, big screens and flashy lights, and pastors with fancy cars and huge houses, they cannot afford to be biblical when it comes to this, because they need the rich man’s donations in order to remain comfortable in their ways. So, to see this verse walked out in real life is a breath of fresh air!