Thursday is for Discipleship
“Churches grow best not when they aim at church growth as much as when they serve the peace/shalom of the whole city.”
Why? Two reasons: one, it is the biblical model of ministry. Jesus, Paul and the early church all seemed to give significant attention to the poor and the downcast of the culture. Luke 4:18-19 gives us Jesus’ own summary of His ministry:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
The apostle Paul gave the Corinthians his analysis of where the early converts of Corinth had come from in 1 Corinthians 1:26-28:
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.
Earlier, Paul wrote to the Galatian Christians that the one thing the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1-35) asked him to impress upon all the gentile churches was that they remember the poor (Galatians 2:10). Likewise, the New Testament writer, James, gives his summary of how the gospel has gone forth in the first century world. In James 2:1-7 he exhorted the church not to dishonor the poor by preferring the rich:
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? (ESV)
A second reason: The New Testament model of ministry seemed to thrive in the good soil of poverty and oppression. This should not be surprising when we look at what Jesus taught in the “Parable of the Sower” (Mark 4:1-20). While there is no mention of the poor per se in the parable it is clear from the description of the “thorny soil” that it is the “deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things [that] enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Mark 4:19).
This is a theme that is echoed in much of Jesus’ teaching. The beaten (think of parable of the Good Samaritan), the oppressed (think of the women who had suffered much at the hands of physicians), the poor (think of the widow’s mite), the despised (think of the Pharisee and the tax collector in the Temple) are held up in a sympathetic light. One could make a good case that Jesus concentrated his most personal and hands-on ministry to the least, most despised, and poorest of the land. We who call him Lord, who are eager to “have Christ formed in us” (Galatians 4:19) ought to follow in his footsteps.
So, how are we doing church?
How are you doing as an individual, as a servant of Christ? Are you seeking to reach the poor with the hope of Christ? Or are you more comfortable with people who have multiple computers and cell phones in their homes?
 Timothy J. Keller and J. Allen Thompson, Church Planter Manual, (New York, N.Y.: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2002), 3.
 This “desire for other things” of course is not only a temptation of the rich but of everyone else as well.
 Respectively Luke 10:25-37; Mark 5:25-34; Mark 12:41-44; Luke 18:9-14.