Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Is there another way? Apostolic Philanthropy.

I came to a faith story in 1976. It was the tail end of the Jesus People in South Africa. They were "heady and intoxicating times". My wonderfully kind heavenly Father, took me, a suburban kid and placed me in an inner city church, meeting in the industrial part of town. Our outreach was a flat bed truck painted with the brash "Turn or Burn" in psychedelic colors, was parked on street corners, at the beach and about anywhere we could. There the raw ravaging rock band would strike up and we would bash out passionate but poor renditions of Barry McQuire, Larry Norman and anyone else who could help us attract a crowd. The gospel would then be attested to with 3 minute fire before the band would launch out again. We lived in communes. We met in a bare warehouse. Many came to faith as we preached the gospel in night clubs, in the red light district and filtered our new converts through the detox that these communal homes provided.

There is a most noteworthy record of a meeting between five apostles in Galatians 2. Peter, James and John found themselves in the same city of Galatia working with the same believers as did Paul and Barnabas. It is a most intriguing gathering for a number of reasons — it speaks of apo collaboration [something we will explore later]. It speaks of two different sets of apostles working in the same context together without a sense of conflict or territorialism. But given our subject today, there is a strong exhortation from the Jerusalem based crew to Paul to "All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do" .

How does one define apo philanthropy?

"Fix you thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess" the writer of the Hebrew text teaches. It may be said that pastoral philanthropy is focussed largely on the local community, the Jesus apostolic model is captivating. One cannot but be empowered by his story. Here are some convo points:
  • He modeled his love for the sinner, the poor, the disenfranchised by going to live among them. We cannot talk about this without exploring the incarnation — "the Word became flesh". The picket fence dream of the scripture includes a consideration of loving the shadowlands of society so much that we go and do life with them,
  • Whilst he fulfilled the Law and the Prophets by simply gathering 12 hebrew men as his disciples, he was a liberator of women. He drew them into his circle. He taught them. He forgave them. He valued them. From the woman at the well to the woman caught in the act of adultery, he chose the grace encounter rather than the consequence of the law, which was stoning. In fact, the first gospel message was preached by Mary as she was told to rush back and tell the disciples that he has risen. What a moment to destroy convention by establishing a new culture-that of the kingdom, and the restored value of the daughters of his Father.
  • Jesus breached the limitations of His culture and national boundaries. His now famous "good samaritan" story blew the narrow lines of a mono-cultural philanthropy to include the fragile of society beyond any of our prejudices and preferences. His love actions included all — irrespective of age, gender, culture, ethnicity.
  • This Jesus call includes a voice to the voiceless — like the modern sex slaves; food for the hungry — like the feeding of Haiti; clothing of the naked — like the sprawling squatters of the modern cities that are producing millions of pavement children, left to sniffing glue to find something to hide their pain; setting up medial clinics to heal through prayer and medicine — like many ministries are doing in some of the most improvised parts of the world; sending teachers and starting schools — like friends are doing to educate the dump children to empower them for a greater life opportunity...
The early church started this way.
  • As early as Acts 2 and 4, we see that "there were no needy among them". Whilst this is more pastoral than apostolic, it is the responsibility of the church to firstly look after her own.
  • Land was sold and the money was given for the apostles to distribute in Acts 4,
  • The first deacons were appointed to resolve the tension created between the Hebraic and Grecian widows in Acts 6.
  • Amidst all the wonder of signs wonders and salvation, of church planting and pioneering doors of opportunity, the Antioch church plant gets a prophetic word about a famine that is to strike the world soon. Their response was global and apostolic. They committed themselves to "each according to his ability, decided to help...". This was what all these early believers did. It was not left for the rich, nor only for those with the gift of [financial] faith. It was apo christianity 101. All were involved. They gave the money to Paul and Barnabas who in turn took it to their apo friends in Judea for distribution — love working with friends across the globe.
  • So many of the epistles record instruction and responsibility to engage the poor — be they widows, slaves, unemployed...
We cannot be ambassadors of the King, if we forget the poor. Whether we minister in the inner city with an urban plant, or in the suburbs with wealth and opulence, we are simply not exempt from the mandate. Church planting, healings, signs and wonders, teachings, life groups are simply not enough. The church as true followers of Jesus, will always find ourselves in the shadow lands of society, the "Word became flesh and dwelt amongst..."


  1. Chris
    An example from the Mongols and the railroads - an overpowering idea coupled to a way that was never seen before - it changed the world

    Great blog series by the way!

  2. Brad says - Chris, this is a very good post. This is in line with the Fathers heart, and this love is the wineskin (framework) through which the kingdom power flows.