Tag Archives: Mercy Ministry

Learning More about Caring for the Widow

How does one help the widow practically? Even as I am currently teaching a class on mercy at the seminary, I am being taught this anew by my congregation.

On Saturday afternoon I had the privilege of joining around twenty men and young boys at the home of Nellie, who with her four young children tragically lost their husband and father a few years ago. One of the elders in our congregation, Herb, has organized a remodeling project on her old farmhouse that the congregation has slowly but surely been working on over that time. A new porch and kitchen have already been added, and the next phase will add on some living space and much needed bedrooms. In order to accomplish this goal, the old kitchen had to be torn off the back of the house.

So that is what we did Saturday. By the time I arrived, the men, wielding crowbars and sledgehammers, had already knocked down the walls and removed much of the roof. Nellie’s dad’s truck was piled high with the beams and boards, then taken to a big pile in a nearby field to be unloaded for a future bonfire that will undoubtedly make a huge blaze. Teenage boys shoveled plaster […]

Poor Laws in an Age of False Beneficence

Whether it is teaching classes on mercy ministry or counseling with others on a case involving someone needy, again and again I find the church struggling to know what to do in helping the poor.  Often I start by telling folks that it is good they are struggling, because every situation will be difficult to discern.  Beware of the one who comes in with the quick, easy answer!

But then I also will ask, “What does the Bible have to say in cases like this one?”  People often fumble around a bit at this question.  Usually a mention of how we have an obligation to care for the needy or a reference to the story of the Good Samaritan is offered by the sensitive, tender-hearted ones on the one hand; and remarks about the poor needing to learn to work or how we cannot be giving handouts to every drunkard comes from the bolder, more stout-hearted folks on the other.  Too infrequently do I hear a reasoned articulation coming from the Scriptures that echoes with the proper Micah 6:8 blend: “to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

The location of this verse just quoted explains why.  Notice Micah 6:8 is in the Old Testament. […]

Mercy and the Westminster Publick Directory of Worship

In teaching on mercy ministry in Reformed settings, I often use the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) to make a point. The RPW teaches that we are only to worship God as He commands us to do so in Scripture. In considering matters of worship, many Reformed Christians, rightly so, insist on regulating carefully by the Word of God what takes place in the church’s worship of God.

So as I address mercy and worship, I like to say there is another RPW.  Not only must we be careful to regulate our worship according to God’s Word, but we must also be diligent to insure that God’s Word is regulating us, especially in the area of mercy. Repeatedly, God’s Word emphasizes as we come into His presence that He is examining us to see if we are caring for the poor, the stranger, the widow, and the orphan as we ought.  Just two samples among dozens that could be given:

God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute.  Rescue the weak and needy; […]

Not Just a Soup Kitchen

Does your local church faithfully minister in the area of mercy? Many of us likely cringe a bit at that question. Perhaps the reason we do not like our own answer to that question is due to ignorance, confusion, fear, lack of leadership, or simply hard-heartedness. So, what is the way forward? When Jesus taught on the ministry of compassion, he often did so through stories – the parable of the Good Samaritan is foremost among them. Those stories then give way to instruction in the ministry of mercy.

Dr. David Apple’s new book Not Just a Soup Kitchen: How Mercy Ministry in the Local Church Transforms Us All follows the same pattern. Apple has been director of Active Compassion Through Service at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia for over twenty-five years.

The book opens with Apple’s own biography of having twice been the wounded man on the side of the road like the man on the Jericho Road. He also experienced a hundred other hurts. He writes “This book is partially the story of how God transformed my life after surviving a near-death skull-fracture, childhood sexual abuse, teenage hopelessness, marital betrayal, spiritual bankruptcy and thoughts of suicide as an adult.” The […]

Mercy Ministry: Theology and Practice

When the bubonic plague broke out in 1519, Ulrich Zwingli won the hearts of Zurich, Switzerland’s citizens as he remained in the city to care for victims and nearly died himself while other religious and civic leaders fled. His preaching combined with active faith ushered in the reformation. Theology and mercy are always connected. To no one’s surprise, God’s word remains true, and poverty and plagues persist in our day. For those reasons, the Reformation Society of Indiana’s 2014 fall conference Growing a Heart for Ministry will highlight the theology and practice of mercy ministry. The conference will be held on Friday and Saturday, October 31-November 1 at Second Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Our speakers, Dr. Philip Ryken and Dr. David Apple worked together for nearly two decades at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Together, they proclaimed the truths of the Bible and practiced mercy in the heart of Philadelphia. Today, Dr. Ryken serves as the president of Wheaton College and Dr. Apple remains as the director of mercy ministries at Tenth Presbyterian.

Church Planting & Mercy Ministry

I’m writing this in real time as I take a class from Randy Nabors.  He just referred to a post he wrote on Church Planting and Mercy Ministry.  The cheat sheet he has shared with us below is worth passing along to you.  It help hearing this from someone who has spent his life living it.

May the Lord continue to raise up churches that offer mercy because we know we have received it.

CHEAT SHEET FOR CHURCH PLANTERS ON MERCY MINISTRY

1. Mercy ministry will be required in your church no matter what socio-economic group makes up your church or community.

2. It would be wise to plan for it ahead of time so that you will have some wisdom, mechanism, or personnel to rise to the situation.

3. Loving your neighbor or “doing good to all men especially to the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10) is not something you can put off until the 2nd, 3rd, or 5th year of the church plant.

4. It is not just the poor that have dysfunctional families, addictions, legal, medical, and death issues.

5. If you minister among the poor you will have more obvious dysfunctionality problems to deal with, with fewer resources.

6. The pastor and Elders must […]