How the Poor Will Change Your Church

When you think about people living in poverty, do you think about what you can do for them, or how you’ll be changed by knowing them?

Of course, we see the call to serve the poor throughout Scripture. From the earliest laws given to the Israelites, openhandedness is commanded. “If anyone is poor among you… do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them.” (Deuteronomy 15:7 NIV)

There’s no question that God tells us, as communities of believers, to care for the poor for their benefit. However, there’s something in it for us too! I’m indebted to my former co-worker, Anne McCain Brown, who shared these seven reasons to get personally involved with the poor.

Becoming a missional church1. Become More Like Christ

When a missional church reaches out to the poor in a personal way, such as through child sponsorship and on mission trips, we get a taste of the way Jesus cared for people. He set the example with his life. Jesus physically touched beggars. He healed the sick. In Mark 7:31-35, we read that Jesus healed a man born deaf by pulling him away from the crowd and physically touching him. Although Jesus could have healed the man without this personal touch—and He could have healed crowds all at once, for that matter—He took an interest in the man as an individual.

2. Make It Personal

We’ve all heard statistics of the masses of people living in poverty, or those suffering from diseases such as HIV/AIDS. But when we meet a person living in that reality, it’s different. Knowing someone personally changes the way we think about poverty. It grows our love for others.

3. Get Something Back

When members of your church sponsor children, they’ll often sense that they are receiving more than they give. In my own family, I’ve found this to be true. We sponsor Noemi, a young girl in Peru, because we want her to have a bright future. But in return, we get personal letters from Noemi that awaken us to the reality of her life. My kids are learning about Peru. Noemi and her family pray for us! We feel abundantly blessed by our sponsored child and her family.

4. Impassion Your Prayers

Let’s be honest. It’s hard to be passionate for statistics. As noble as it may be to pray for millions of people living in poverty day after day, not many of us can sustain such prayers. However, when you know someone personally who is living in poverty, your prayers are different. When we see a face, hear a name and take in a story, we care more. We pray with fervor.

5. Watch God Work

Want to see incredible examples of God answering prayer? Partner from year to year with the same people in the same place.  Change takes time. Don’t get me wrong–it’s great to fund a well, for example. But if you never hear what happens with the well later, you might be missing some of God’s most transformational work. I’ve seen the unmistakable hand of God in a community where  the pump on a well broke just one year into its service, and the entire community rallied together to fix it themselves. It’s over the long haul that we see the fruit of discipleship. When your church gets personally involved over a period of years, you get to see deep, mind-blowing results that will grow your faith.


6. Challenge Your Personal Walk

Do you yearn to see more of your congregation tithing to the church?  Are you sick of petty squabbles over worship styles or carpet colors? Some of the greatest role models of humility, contentment and generosity are waiting to meet you in tin-roofed sanctuaries where Food for the Hungry works around the world. When your church sends a mission trip to meet the body of believers in an impoverished community, they will return home with a new vigor for walking with God.


7. Go from Hearer to Doer

Getting personally involved with the poor will get your congregation out of their seats. Regular attenders will become active servants. Visitors will see that you are a missional church where they want to belong.

Did I miss anything? Leave a comment!

These seven changes are powerful (and admittedly selfish) ways that God has transformed my own life, as well as dozens of churches that I’ve had the privilege to walk with during my years at Food for the Hungry. If our approach resonates with you, check out our church engagement opportunities. Or leave a comment, and let’s start the conversation.

About Wendy McMahan

Wendy McMahan is grateful for her front row seat in watching God “reconcile all things to Himself.” (Colossians 1:20) She still can’t believe that she gets to participate in His story every day. Wendy and her husband are proud parents to two daughters and have been foster parents to children of all ages. Wendy serves as Director of Church Engagement at Food for the Hungry. She hosts the Poverty Unlocked podcast.

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