CHURCH WITH the HOMELESS - KANSAS CITY -by Andrew Strom. For several months now, it is almost like I have been haunted by a burning question from God that has returned to me again and again. The question is this:- "Is it possible to have true New Testament Christianity without a deep and vital involvement with the POOR? -IS IT POSSIBLE?" And more and more, as I have been deeply challenged by this question, I have been forced to reply: "No, biblically it is not possible. It is not possible to have true New Testament Christianity without a deep involvement with the POOR." This question is not "theory" for me. It has already begun to have an enormous impact on our life and ministry. Starting in 2005, for about 8 months a group of us fed the homeless in the Inner City once a week - handing out clothes and praying with people, etc. It was good, but in many ways it was a kind-of "side-line" - not a major focus of our ministry. I began to feel more and more that we were just "visitors" - only there for a brief time each week - just visiting rather than truly being "involved". Where was the opportunity for really powerful ministry - for making true 'disciples' of Jesus Christ? This began to weigh on my heart, and about that time God started putting the above question to me again and again about the poor. So a couple of months ago we took the plunge, and in so-doing our whole ministry was completely re-oriented and changed in a direction that I had simply not foreseen. But even this is only the beginning. We rented the basement of an old stone church right in the heart of the "homeless" area. It is a bit ancient, but the basement has a large dining area and a commercial kitchen. For close to two months now we have fed the homeless every Saturday and Sunday afternoon - all the while holding "church" for them while they eat. (-Worship and 'Repentance' preaching, etc). A lot of them stay and listen. And for the first time we are seeing homeless people repenting of their sins, receiving prayer for healing, getting filled with the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we feed up to 130 people - but it is the "spiritual" ministry that is by far the most important to me. As I said, it is only a beginning, but this whole thing has already brought a profound change to my priorities - the way I think and the way I view Christianity. You know, in the Western church today we so often go first to the rich. We build our beautiful cathedrals in the suburbs - where the well-off people live, and neglect the poor of the inner cities. After all, how are the tithes of the needy going to pay for that new sound system - or the preacher's new car? It simply doesn't make financial sense to orient our whole ministry around people who have nothing - or so we think. And yet this is the exact opposite of Jesus. He very deliberately and knowingly went to the poor rather than the rich. He stated categorically right at the start of His ministry that he had been anointed "to preach the gospel to the POOR" (Lk 4:18). When John the Baptist's disciples asked Him for evidence that He was the Messiah, Jesus spoke of His miracles and also the fact that "the POOR have the gospel preached to them" (Lk 7:22). -These were major signs of His ministry! He said, "Blessed be ye POOR, for yours is the kingdom of God... but WOE unto you that are RICH, for you have received your consolation" (Lk 6:20, 24). He told parables of rich people who went to hell and poor people who went to heaven. He told the rich young ruler to "Sell what you have and give to the poor" - and sent him away sad. He consistently rebuked the rich and shared his life with the poor. He was "one" with them. Born in a stable, a simple carpenter's son with "nowhere to lay His head", a poor man living amongst the poor. -This is the true Jesus as He really was. If you ever do a Concordance-search on the words "poor", 'rich', "possessions", 'mammon', etc,- you will see how utterly radical Jesus was on this subject. There is simply no other way to interpret what he said. And the early church just continued right on with Jesus' approach. The Book of Acts tells us again and again how totally involved the early Christians were with the poor. Many of them sold lands and houses and possessions to help the needy (Acts 2, Acts 4, Acts 5) and they held a daily feeding of the widows in Jerusalem. (Acts 6). Remember, Jesus told us that when we make a "feast", we should not invite our friends or rich neighbors, but rather "the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind" - for these are people who can never pay us back. (Lk 14:12-14). All of this has been such a challenge and a re-orientation for me over the last few months. It really has affected everything. For us, the next step is obviously shifting out of the "safe" suburbs ourselves - and close to the inner city. Obviously, "church with the homeless" must continue - and hopefully even more so. For me, after months of pondering, the answer to that original question is very clear. If I am honest with the Bible I can only come to one conclusion: "It is truly impossible to have real New Testament Christianity unless there is a deep and vital involvement with the poor." Go and search the Bible for yourself on this issue, my friends, and see if it changes your life as it has mine. God bless you all. Kindest regards in Christ, Andrew Strom.