People Need Food to Eat, but Food Alone is not Nearly Enough.

People Need Food to Eat, but Food Alone is not Nearly Enough.

In our mission, we give food to people who do not have enough money to buy food and still pay their rent or clothe their children or take their children to the doctor.  And we give food to people who have no money at all.  It is important that we do that.  It is important that we do that for a hundred reasons.  But, giving food to people who do not have enough is not our mission.  Our mission is to seek the Kingdom of God and the right relationship that it embodies.  In the Kingdom of God, there is always enough if you share.  And so we share.  We seek the Kingdom of God, and where it can be found we participate in it with Jesus.  We are not his partners.  We are his slaves.  It isn’t about the food.  It is about serving and being served in the Kingdom of God.

I heard a dear colleague of mine who grew up in poverty tell me that the “’hood” is like a “crab bucket”.  He used the term, but having never seen a bucket full of crabs he didn’t completely understand how crushingly appropriate his metaphor was.  I grew up crabbing by hand down in South Carolina and Virginia.  At first, I thought you had to put a lid on the bucket you stored your crabs in.  But I came to see that that was only true if you had one or two or three crabs.  Once the bucket began to fill up, and crabs were on top of crabs, you no longer needed a lid.   All of the crabs were clawing at each other to get out, each grabbing the other in a maniacal scramble to the top, and they ended up keeping any of them from ever getting out.  They pulled each other down instead of pulling one another up. Just as one would just about make it out of the bucket, another one would grab it and pull it back in in its own struggle to climb over it to get out.  As such, they all went into the boil together.

In the Kingdom of God, we don’t climb over one another.  Since there is enough if we share, we share.  And in that way, we are all lifted.  Jesus is in the crab bucket.  Jesus is transforming the crab bucket into something else.  Jesus is right in their loving and disentangling and lifting up.  And if we look for him, we can find him.  And when we find him, we can serve him and serve others with him.  The mission might serve food, but the mission is about the Kingdom of God transforming the way of dragging one another down into the Way of pulling one another up. It is never just about the food.  Having enough to eat reflects God’s sovereignty, God’s reign on earth as God reigns in Heaven.  It is always about the Kingdom.  The mission is the Kingdom, not the food.

Among folks who are catching the “missional” spirit, there is a tendency to see the obvious and to miss the subtle…to see the fruit, and to miss the vine.  Jesus is the vine.  And we are seeking to live with him and in him and through him.  But I keep hearing people focus on the food, or the clothing, or visiting people in prison, and they miss the whole point.  They keep spending all of their imagination and energy or getting food to people or clothes to people.  Yes, we get food to people.  And, yes, some of these folks will, too.   But, if their focus is the food, they miss the theological foundation of why we do what we do.  And what we do feeds us in ways that defy description.  If all we do is feed people, we will not be fed ourselves.  And we will burnout.  And the truth is that we will be feeding one need in others, but will not even begin to touch the deeper needs of people. So let me make a couple of points clear so that our imaginations can be joined with Christ’s in the same project:

1)     We don’t “target” people groups, demographics, or anything else. We listen for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

People ask us how we target people groups for our missions.  What research on demographics did we do?  Where are our seventy pages of statistics about our target demographic? Yeah, we don’t do any of that.  We don’t target.  We prayed for vision. I know that sounds crazy in 21st Century America.  I can almost hear the church-growth gurus cringing even as I write this. But we believe that the God of scripture is the God of now.  What God did in scripture, God is also doing now.


So we listen to dreams.  We look for signs and wonders. And we pray for the leading of the Holy Spirit. When someone has a dream that is profound enough to provoke them to share it with the community, we approach it from the posture of belief, and try to discern its meaning.  Dreams have led us to geographies. Once we got there, we prayer walked, and we prayed over the alleys and streets and homes.  We prayed that Heaven would come to earth in those places, and that people that God prepared to come into the Kingdom would come and do so.   And those prayer walks have led us to the “person on the ground”…the indigenous person that God prepared for us to meet. The person on the ground has the “Tacit Information” (time sensitive, culturally saturated, and geographically aware) that is required to seek and understand God’s activity in a given area.  And by developing a relationship with the person on the ground, we have found our way to God’s activity in that area.  We then simply begin to develop that situation.  We couldn’t strategically plan because we didn’t know what God was doing until we got there. We apply resources to the developing situation. We learn what we need to learn as needs for learning are identified in the engagement with the mission. Remember, God was there in mission before we ever got there.  The Kingdom was already at work.

We start small because often we are wrong about what God is calling us to do. If it starts small and fails, it’s not catastrophic.  It’s no big deal…literally. But we are willing to be wrong in order to be obedient to God’s call and claim on our community.  We pray.  We look for supernatural guidance.  And then we seek to be obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  We do not “target”.  It’s like the Magi looking for a sign, not like corporate directors strategically planning the future of a company.  Like Joseph, we pay attention to our dreams and visions. The bush was burning before Moses got there, but like Moses, we are open to some pretty crazy signs and wonders. When we think we see a sign of God’s activity, we go towards it.  Everything good and worthy and right that we have ever participated in has flowed out of those attempts to watch and to be obedient.


2)     It’s not about the food.

The mission is not to feed people even when what we’re running is a feeding ministry or food pantry.  The mission is to seek the Kingdom of God.  When we find it, we are obedient to the Great Commission by inviting others who do not yet know it to participate in it with us.  We are calling people into Kingdom participation first.  Participating in the Kingdom of God might mean feeding people.  It might mean clothing people.  It might mean being fed by people or clothed by people.  It might mean giving away school supplies or tutoring or visiting the sick and elderly.  It might also mean being visited by people when we are sick.  It always involves being both the subject and the object of the Kingdom of God.  And it is always about seeking the Kingdom of God.  If you go in thinking that you are going to give food to people, you will probably end up giving food to people, but you may not end up participating in the Kingdom of God.


I have been to a lot of feeding ministries that are just as much reflective of hell as the ghetto was before they got there.  Condescending people giving food to people who are not just less fortunate, but who they treat as LESS than they are is a feeding outreach, but it isn’t the present Kingdom of God.  Agencies that claim to be doing service for people who on some level are not their equal – intellectually, spiritually, economically, etc – are simply reflecting this worldly culture of condescension, self-centeredness, and humiliation.  They are simply reflecting the torn garment of God’s people – the hierarchies, inequalities, and places of separation that Satan thrives upon.  The Kingdom of God is upside down.  It is different.  It is giving and receiving.  It is washing feet and having our own feet washed.  It is subject AND object.  WE are changed.  And if we aren’t seeking the Kingdom FIRST, then it doesn’t really matter what else we do because whatever else we do will not connect people to the Kingdom. The Kingdom is the Good News.  The Kingdom is what heals the sick and restores hope to the hopeless. The Kingdom of God is the place of miracles.  Feeding outreaches aren’t. The food might be a part of the Kingdom.  But the food is about the Kingdom.  The food is not about the food.



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