Churches help homeless families. A few churches in Portland, Oregon have answered the call to give a small amount of money toward the big needs of families suffering homelessness this winter. Will more churches answer the call, or are they too focused on prosperity and pretty trimmings?
JOIN: New City Initiative for the Homeless
There is a nonprofit group called JOIN in Portland, Oregon. They have put together the New City Initiative as a way to gently push churches to help homeless families among the overwhelming homeless population in Portland. They are asking for 10 churches to give $2400, $800 a month for three months, to help house 10 families for three months while they get on their feet. The organization is also asking that these churches provide a few volunteers to visit with the homeless families. If $800 is too much to ask, then the organization suggests that several churches band together to support one family. Furthermore, this is not an ongoing commitment. It is only a one-time thing. Easy peasy. Read more with this Oregonian article Expanding capacity to help homeless.
This is a great idea. Sometimes churches use the excuse that there are too many needs around them, too much money, too much time required to get involved. This initiative breaks it down into bite-sized pieces. The only problem?
Only three organizations have stepped up- Saint Andre Bessette Catholic Church, the First Congregational United Church of Christ, and the Islamic Social Services of Oregon State. Kudos to these organizations.
What Other Churches Help Homeless Families?
Where is everyone else? Where are the Protestant churches? Where are the area mega-churches who are certainly bringing in a lot of revenue? The Charismatic church claims to hear God personally. Well, is anyone hearing Yahweh’s heart right now?
They complain that their giving is down in this economic climate. They say that their members have no time to volunteer. Well, what exactly are these members then doing with all their unemployed time that they claim as the source of their paltry giving? Also, many pastors are living comfortably with $60,000, $70,000, or even 6-figure salaries. Where is this money coming from? Can these pastors give up just a paltry $2400 for one year, even if it came from their salary?
What Would Jesus Do?
Yeshua never gave such complaints. He didn’t just financially support one poor family and help them move into their new home for three months. He lived right with the homeless. He preached, but he never took a salary, especially a six-figure one. He said, “The son of man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). He befriended the poor, healed their ailments, and fought their cause. Why does the church not do the same? They talk about it, but they rarely put their money with their mouth is.
I visited several (Protestant) churches in the Portland area recently. They all had coffee and pastries before service, shiny brochures for visitors, state-of-the art sound systems and instruments, computers and flat-screen televisions for their Power Point sermons. One church met at a middle school; the rest all had big, beautifully decorated buildings. One church even gave us coffee mugs just for visiting. Nice, big, gleaming white coffee mugs.
This same church says that it wants to be a hope for the poor. Yet, it does not give money to the poor. Only prayer. Maybe this church could buy a few less mugs and brochures and online advertisements, and put just $800 into really helping the poor.
Or maybe I live in a dream world. Maybe Yeshua would have used coffee mugs and sound systems if he lived today. Maybe that’s the way to take care of people’s needs. A safe, warm place to live is not really that important, is it? Those people can at least be safe and warm once a week in the big, beautiful church building. In today’s model, Yeshua would have been sure to pray for them after service and send them back to the streets. He would say they had an “entitlement attitude” anyway, and that they should just fix their own life. God helps those who help themselves, after all (well, that’s not in the Bible, maybe they forgot to put it in).
Or would he? Is Yeshua the leader of churches helping their own prosperity roll calls, or is he the leader of the churches helping homeless families?