I love Portland, Oregon. It’s by far my favorite city in the USA. Maybe it’s the city itself in it’s weirdness. Maybe it’s the coffee scene which is so much a part of my life. Or perhaps it’s simply that this is a city where a lot of life change and growth has happened in my life. But I do love it. And, as with any big city, it has it’s needs and shortfalls. One of them being the amount of homeless residents. We recently moved back to the States from living overseas for over a decade, and have been residing in Salem, Oregon-a city about 45 minutes south of Portland and a fifth of Portland’s size. But the homeless population is astounding. A little less than half the amount of Portland’s homeless population which means that close to 500 kids in the schools in the two counties that make up Salem, are homeless.
I’ve never known poverty, really. At least, I’ve never lived it. My family was not rich by any American standards, but we weren’t in poverty. My travels around the world have put me in places that I’m not sure I would allow my pet to live, yet it was what many people would call home. They are what we see images of on our TVs or what we read reports on every year. We read about them in books and see them in videos, many of which are asking for donations to help support life giving work that is going on there. And so, we give financially and pray for those who are “less fortunate” than we are. And this is where I think we break from what God commissioned us.
I grew up, as many I know have, in churches that gave to help those in need. Which, in my opinion, is great! When I later went on to serve in ministry capacities overseas, I would come back to share stories of those we were sharing the Gospel with. When talking about these cultures in which we lived and spoke about how we were telling those around us about Jesus, we got smiles, nods and “thank yous” from those listening to our stories. But it almost always was shared in a way that showed how much financial need these people were in. When I shared about how we were helping them financially and sharing about Jesus, we were met with a great pity for those people and because of there “misfortune,” they really needed Jesus.
When our ministry moved from reaching into the lower class to trying to share Christ with those in the upper classes of society, our stories weren’t met with the same adoration. Why? Don’t they also need to understand that we have a Savior who loves them deeply? A God who calls them His children? Yes they do, but they don’t have the same financial need as others.
What I believe is that when many are sent from the American church to ministry cross culturally, it is the general belief that they are being sent to share the Western American Christian life with those in other cultures. That hard work, grit and determination will help you be successful and successful means you will have money….and Jesus. I could go on, but this is where I believe we here in the States have strayed from the commission Jesus gave us. It is a much different gospel than the one Jesus lived and modeled for us.
The ideas of “blessed” and “less fortunate” are for another post, I promise. But, for my brothers and sisters in Christ here in the West, let me simply suggest that perhaps the gospel that we are so excited about sharing, and that we are spending a lot of money supporting, isn’t really the gospel of Christ. Let me suggest that the Gospel we may be preaching, the gospel we may even believe in, isn’t the Gospel of the Son of Man, but the American Jesus we have come to love and come comfortable with.
More to come…
be blessed today