Sunday, May 27, 2007


Many years ago when I read Ron Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, I wasn’t sure I should like it. It felt subversive. The biggest part of those feelings was due to my quickly changing paradigm at that time: after coming out of an anti-authority, counter-culture movement and being thrown into the evangelical church subculture, I wasn’t sure what politics and social philosophies I was supposed to subscribe to. I was a far left fish tossed in a far right stream. Thankfully, Jesus catches and cleans all kinds…and the total surrender He calls us to can’t be labeled and polled.

As time crept along, I had questions that buzzed me, like: why can’t the Church be known for it’s humility and servanthood and yet have a prophetic voice in the culture? Doesn’t a call to follow Jesus demand a response to the poor? Are classic evangelism and social justice mutually exclusive? Does the Good News that lifted me out of a lonely, drugged and spiritually lost state have something to say about racism, economic oppression and systemic injustice? It did and does.

Evangelical thinkers and writers like Ron Sider sounded the call to move beyond categorized political labels and simply do the right thing…or dare I say: do what Jesus would do.

After the message this weekend, I wanted to offer some of the practical—and that doesn’t mean “non-spiritual”—ways we can take part in changing our world. First and foremost, go to VCC’s website to the MercyWorks page at If you haven’t been to this page lately, you’ll be shocked at the number of opportunities. For many, many years God has had us getting hands-on with the needs of the marginalized and under-resourced. MercyWorks, Growth and Healing Ministries and our Prayer Ministries offer a variety of services, like simple basic help with free food and clothes (over 10 tons of food goes out every month), financial counseling, mentoring and tutoring, an auto donations and clinic, assessments, job coaching, jail ministry, mentoring and tutoring programs, literacy tutoring, Divorce & Beyond, and more. It includes organizations outside of ours, like our partnership with Big Brothers/Sisters

Last Thursday we officially purchased the 106,000 square feet warehouse in which we’ll build the Healing Center: Help for the Whole Person. The number of volunteers that will be needed to serve our city with the Center will be huge. Begin praying now for what God might have you do with the HC. Or come serve for a couple of hours at MercyWorks to get a taste of what’s coming.
Other VCC ministries take God’s grace beyond our walls, like the Good Sam runs each Saturday morning and volunteers who drive and pick up folks from shelters to bring them to the Saturday night celebrations.

Or you could pick up a yellow bag by the exit doors and fill it up with the items listed on it and bring it back the following weekend. That simply saves us money from the MercyWorks fund and enables us to feed and care for more people. Demographics are shifting rapidly; NPR recently reported that according to the last census, there are now more people living below the poverty level in suburbs than in the cities.

Check out our friends at the One City Foundation at Whiz Kids is a simple program to offer tutoring for at-risk kids.

If you want to expand your view and learn more about global poverty and the AIDS epidemic, go to

Of course, grab a copy of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger or Just Generosity. It might rock your world.

And join the revolution.


  1. That guy seriously rocked! I was so encouraged to hear what he had to say!!

  2. Thanks for bringing Ron Snider; he reminds us with another perspective and bigger picture of what we ought to do as God's hands and feet. We're not just seeking souls, but we're also changing the world, fighting injustice and poverty. I've been struggling with this as I work in a secular social service/advocacy organization that I thought IS doing what Jesus would do, but you're right, we have to have both evangelism and social justice. That's why participating at the many VCC's ministry filled my longing to serve.

  3. Dave, like you. I have read Dr.Sider's books. I consider myself very conservative politically and had to step back when I first heard some of his "solutions" to social injustice. So I am posting out of compassion for my fellow conseratives who cringed at some of Dr. Sider's left leaning solutions. I have concluded that I can't just throw the baby out with the bath water! There is a problem and reading Dr.Sider's books will convince most anyone of it! What I love about our church is that we aren't saying how "they" (the gov't or anyone else) should fix poverty/social injustice)... we are jumping in with both feet to be part of the solution!!! This is where I want to be!
    BTW, hats off to Anonymous for her work in a secular organization. I would suggest it ain't secular if you bring the Spirit to work everyday!

  4. There's a lot of struggling Christians in the Age of Hunger too with holes in their socks and underwear who aren't driving late-model SUVs and watching flat-screen cable who are wondering themselves how they're going to pay for basic needs and getting depressed that they can't afford to fill a yellow bag for someone else like they're supposed to ...

  5. I have to say I disagreed with much of what Mr. Snider had to say about the Governments role in handling healthcare and with the poor. The government has a long history of abuse of power and fiscal irresponsibility. Its like giving your gambling brother control over your savings, its simply unwise and unbiblical. USAtoday recently published an article that the Federal government recorded a loss of 1.3 trillion last year alone, largely due to Social Security, and medcare/medicaid. "The loss — equal to $11,434 per household — is more than Americans paid in income taxes in 2006." Is this who you want in charge of your healthcare? Not to mention Mr. Snider also suggested that other industrialized nations had it "better" due to nationalized healthcare. Funny, but the people from France, England and Canada I know would disagree with him on that issue. There is a reason middleclass Canadians come to the US and pay cash for expensive procedures. They can't get them at all due to huge waiting lists and healthcare rationing in Canada. The doctors are leaving Canada because its not worth what they can make. National healthcare is not the fix, and after 15 years of Vineyard attendance I certainly hope thats not the stand the Vineyard takes.

  6. It's disheartening to witness the injustices in the healthcare system. Public policies and governmental decisions are not the answers in and of themselves to bring forth change. The answer lies in a government-a nation, with hearts turned to God. That all would hear God's call to repentance, that revival would come. The Church's responsibility is to pray for those in authority and leadership. I didn't hear Mr Snider contradict our call to Christ. I thank God for his wisdom and ministry.

  7. I think it’s good to have some divergent views at VCC as will certainly be the case in areas of social justice. I appreciated Ron’s balance of systemic issues with a clear evangelism edge. What I heard him saying regarding healthcare is it’s impossible for the Church to take care of all of the U.S. citizenship health needs; there simply aren’t the resources. I also heard him say that government has a social responsibility from a public policy perspective to at least attempt to solve the problem of having millions of citizens with no health care. While we have incredibly capable and envied medical expertise under a privatized system, it also seems clear that it’s out of reach of some 47 million Americans. That seems sad and unacceptable to me. Whatever the effective system, I liked Ron’s approach, however simplistic: tell our government representatives “we elected you, you have four years, figure it out. If you don’t figure it out, we’ll replace you.”

    Seems to me it’s a very complex problem involving family systems, moral issues, adequate resourcing of medical R&D, fiscal responsibility, equal employment opportunities, interdependent economic structures, and on and on.

    But there should be some attempt to whittle that 47 million number down. In 1961, President Kennedy threw out a vision of landing a man on the moon within a decade…without a process or plan. It was a challenge to Congress. How about a visionary political leader who says to drop that number down by fifty percent over the next “x”-amount of years?

  8. I remember going to the Vineyard a handfull of times. I have been searching for something all my life. I truly believe that Jesus has been calling me. I know this has nothing to do with this subject, however, I need to shout out to someone. In March of 2005, I was deployed in the military to a war zone. My wife was very supportive of my desire to serve my country. While I was there, I encountered many close calls. I am alive today due to the prayer chains that my wife started at the Vineyard. I owe my life to the Vineyard. I now find myself deployed again, but not in a war zone. I am far away from my wife and children. Being alone out here began to bring out things that I did not want to do. I bagan to spend a lot of time and money at stip clubs. I knew it was wrong. Many months ago, I stopped going to the strip clubs and turned my efforts in other areas. On my late night drives I noticed many homeless people. I felt they were vitims of the same things that I had fallen into. So I decided to see what I could do. I wanted to help homeless people. I have sat with them and listened to their life stories very late into the night. Some nights I stayed up all night without getting any sleep. I have visited their make shift homes under bridges. I have treated them with food, and cigarettes. I walked with them on the streets. I have driven them to their friends. I spent a lot of money that I did not have on these people. I did not want my wife to know cause we are so much in debt, and all our pennies count. I wanted to make a difference in this world, so I took a homeless guy into my home. After 6-8 weeks, he transformed into a complete different person. He got his life back on track, and found a job back near his home as a welder. I even bought him a bus ticket to get to his new life. I have never heard back from him, and I hope that he is still doing well. I hope I made a big difference in his life. I was so proud of what I did for this guy. I did not tell my wife immediatly for fear she would not understand. Since I enjoyed this so much, I searched and found another person to help. This time it was a female. I moved her into my home, and tried to help her anyway I could. Unfortunately, this turned into disaster. She stole things from my home, one of which was going to be a gift to my wife, and I have never seen her again. The culminating effect of this disaster turned into more disaster. My wife called my home one evening, and the female answered the phone. This totaly destroyed my relationship with my wife. Since my infedelity of many years ago, and the knowledge of me being in a stip place, she assumes that I was doing bad things again. I understand how she would come to that conclusion, and I cannot offer any proof to prove my good intentions. Now she is leaving me. The old saying "no good deed ever goes unpunished" seems to be true in this case. I am facing a whole new crisis. I have hurt my wife in the worst of ways many years ago, and she has never forgiven me for that. This last incident seems to be the breaking point. I hate myself for doing those bad things many years ago and I do not know what to do. She has decided to leave me. She is the love of my life, and I cannot fathom living without her. I know I have not treated her the way I should have. I think that I was longing for something, and was looking totaly in the wrong places. I am so sorry for what I have done, and want so much to turn back time. I realize (too late) that Jesus is the place I should have been looking all the time. I do not want my wife to leave me, but she has made her decision, and will not change. Please, everyone, pray for my wife and I. I want to appologize to all the Vineyard people for being a failure. I did not openly communicate to my wife, and I have sufferred greatly. Everyone at Vineyard prayed for me while I was in a war zone, and I let you down by my actions. Please forgive me. I cannot ask for much more from the folks at Vineyard, but if you see it in your hearts, please pray that my wife and I stay together. I feel that prayer and devotion to Jesus is what has been missing in my life, and I so much wanted to share that with my wife. In the begining I was very antagonistic towards my wife when she joined Vineyard, and even mocked her in some ways. I know I was wrong, but I think that was my own minds protective devices working to keep my heart closed. I am ready to open my heart, but now that is broken. Dave, I have left you an e-mail hoping that you could call me. I am in so much need for help right now. I am now lost, and cannot find my way. PLEASE HELP.

  9. Mike, we the church are praying for you now. We will continue to.

    "God, we ask for you to continue to be the Savior in Mike's life. We ask you to continue to be Savior in his wife's life. Father, the almighty, Jesus, our Savior and Holy Spirit COMFORTER, bring your comfort the Mike."

    "Holy Spirit, Come. Holy Spirit, Come now to Mike. Let him see how much you love and value and forgive him. Holy Spirit, Come. Holy Spirit speak hope and respect into Mike's heart about himself."

    "In the name of our strong Savior, Jesus Christ we join in saying to the feelings of fear and inadequacy be gone. You don't have a place here. Mike and his wife belong to God, the Holy One, not the evil one. So be gone."

    "Healing, Restoration and Hope come. In the power of our God we pray Healing, Restoration and Hope into your heart now, and into your future."

    "Holy One, let Mike remember your word in Jeremiah 29:11-14, ' For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity.'"

    So Be It, in Jesus Name

  10. No Dave, it's not a complex issue, its a simple one. It simply is not the place of the Federal Government to institute policies regarding socialized healthcare. Period. Find another way to correct the issue. The founding fathers had clear instructions on how limited the power of the Federal Government was supposed to be and they had those instructions for good reason. Centralizing power simply invites corruption. Moving back to a system of limited federal involvement and stronger state and local power will only benefit the poor and underprivileged. Think about how much more impact each person has at a local or state level, and how much more concern officals and local citizens have for stuff happening in their own "backyard"? If you really want to lobby for something like that lobby it on the state level. Maybe you can get Ohio to setup something that works better then the huge deficit creating programs in Tennessee and Washington State. I'm not holding my breath.

  11. Mike,

    Just know that we have all been in places that we are ashamed of. We are all broken, but by the grace of God and the death of His son our Saviour Jesus Christ we are all healed. Do not beat yourself up. You are doing the right thing by going to Dave to get help with this problem. God is with you and I am sure I speak for all in our church family that you are in our prayers.

    God never leaves us!

  12. As far as the political arguments, just follow Christ and God's word. With faith, love, empathy, grace, and most of all His Word, He will move mountains! We as His flock are required to help one another and everyone in this world will prosper by God moving through us!

  13. Thanks for your comments, Ben. Guess we'll have to disagree: I still think it's a "complex problem", regardless of the level of federal, state or city government involvement. Years of offering help to the poor have caused me to view poverty as being multi-layered, involving individual and systemic issues.