Recently I had the great pleasure of visiting friends in Ireland. They are pastors of small churches and the incredible resolve they posses to spend their lives being a light in a very post-Christian environment is nothing short of inspiring. They are aware that the rate of change is painstakingly slow yet they are committed to staying the course. It’s not about bigger buildings, better marketing, or a busier preaching itinerary for them. It’s about leading people to hope and freedom through Jesus, and I love the fact that simplicity hasn’t escaped from their purpose and values.
One thing I look forward to when I’m in Ireland is the “craic”. It’s a Gaelic word for having a good time, laughing, and sharing stories. We have rich conversations about life, ministry, family, and whatever else comes to mind. It’s not unusual for hours to pass, lost in each others tales of adventure, misfortune, sacrifice, and good humor.
During one such time, I was talking with my pastor friend Peter Lynch, from Dundalk. He leads a fellowship of about 50 people, very small by American standards. During our conversation he shared with me how his church has been taking trips to Burkina Faso in West Africa. It’s the third poorest country in the world. They have gone and dug wells for the people there so they can have fresh water. They’re also helping to build a school. When they go, they train the locals how to do the work and they leave all their tools behind so they can keep moving forward. Each trip costs around 25,000 dollars, a steep price to pay for such a small church.
I couldn’t help but think of how many times I hear pastors claim their churches just aren’t ready to help others with physical needs. The building payment, new carpeting, sound system, and payroll keep them from being able to feed the poor, clothe the naked, or shelter the homeless. Sometimes they hide behind the idea that all of those luxuries are needed to meet spiritual needs and attract seekers. Whatever helps them sleep at night… All I know is that Jesus spoke much about caring for the needy and spoke very little about pouring all our resources into building our organization. Wait… he never spoke about pouring our resources into our organization…
I’m not against the western church or religious organizations. I’m simply asking, If a tiny Irish church can give so freely to those in need, then why can’t we? Why don’t we adhere to the priorities Jesus gave us? I’ve read Matthew 25 over and over and can’t find the part where Jesus welcomes the sheep because they were so hip, relevant, good looking, or multi-campused. Instead he said, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
This doesn’t just apply to the church either. As a church staff member for many years, I can recall times when people would ask us for money and resources to help someone out. The problem was that the person doing the asking was plenty capable to help that person themselves. The good Samaritan didn’t ask an organization to help the poor guy left for dead. He used his own resources! We as individuals need to make helping others a priority too. It amazes me how many people “wish” they could do more but will drop $15 a week at Starbucks!
So here’s my challenge… be a sheep, not a goat. Read Matthew 25:31-46 again. Are you living it? One of the great things about being a blessing is that God blesses back. My friend Peter shared that his church has experienced a twenty percent increase in finances since they’ve started going to Africa. That’s in the middle of a recession! Looks like Luke 6:38 is true! We should live like our lives are not our own, give like our money is theirs, and go like it’s really not that far! … ready or not.