Give Them What You Have

Ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

Matthew 25:40 (NLT)

   There’s a phrase that has become common in Christian circles over the past several years. We’ve been told: “Don’t just GO to church, BE the church.” The idea is that the people of God shouldn’t be content with just having weekly services, running programs, and even inviting new people to those events but, instead, should endeavor to be the “hands and feet” of Jesus outside the church walls to those who don’t yet know Him. The sentiment is Biblically accurate and can effectively take shape in many ways.

  Some churches focus almost exclusively on community outreach, providing food, clothing, and shelter to those in need. They may give away backpacks with school supplies and budget sponsorships for school sports teams. These are all commendable and worthwhile things. Other churches may focus more on internal programs, working to provide great mid-week classes for children and families, engaging youth events, and Spirit-led Sunday services. These are also wonderful opportunities. It’s really not an either/or proposition. It’s more of a both/and situation. The issue is something we all face: limited time and resources. How can we do it all?

   So, the question is, “What is the Holy Spirit speaking specifically to us as a church?” In other words, what would He like His church to be doing in our city? Are there things we’ve “always” done that He might want us to do differently? Are there good things we’re doing that might no longer be the right things for us to give our time and attention? Are there new opportunities He’s presenting that might require a shift in our thinking and a reallocation of our resources? Is the old way still the best way?

   As you know, our church has undergone some transformation over the past several years. There have been times when we weren’t sure how things were going to unfold, but through it all, one thing is sure: God is always faithful and good, and He always has a plan and purpose for our future.

   Our church has never wavered in its desire to reach our city for Jesus. This has been a foundational element of our ministry philosophy for decades, tracing to several pastors before Susan and I arrived. Still, God has led us through a process of significant transformation that required us to do some serious refocusing and widespread realigning. We’re not done yet because He continues to change us from glory to glory, but we can see far more clearly now what He’s been doing in us as people and as a church.

   A few basic values have helped us (and continue to help) as we seek to follow God’s plan for our church family to be a bright light in our community. They are principles He has used to reinforce our foundation and yet refashion us to be effective carriers of the Gospel message.


   The most important thing God did was call us to prayer – and not just to a “season” of prayer but rather to be a people of prayer and to have a deep understanding that continual, earnest prayer must be our foundation. We believe God spoke this so clearly that we now have a Prayer Center. It’s a building completely dedicated to the presence of God and teaching people how to pray and to encounter Jesus in a supernatural way.

   Prayer isn’t just an important discipline. It’s essential to our very spiritual existence as believers. Jesus Himself said, “The scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer…’” (Luke 19:46, NLT). Until we cultivate a life of praying without ceasing, as Paul encouraged believers to do, we will struggle to know the heart and mind of God for our lives and for our ministries.

   Our church is learning that prayer isn’t primarily about our long “list” of requests or getting our requests answered. Instead, the priority of prayer is about surrendering our will to the will of the Father, just as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane. I love what Soren Kierkegaard said, “Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.” As we seek Him in prayer, what is the Holy Spirit communicating about our means and methodologies for serving our communities? Are there things that need to change? Are we willing to surrender our preferred ways for His perfect ways?


   When Susan and I became the pastors of Hope Church in Algood in 2020, we inherited a church with a rich history of prayer, faith, and generosity. For that we are grateful, and we were able to experience these things first-hand when we served the church as its worship pastors 20 years ago.

   Our church has experienced some changes, so over several years our church has learned a lot about healing and forgiveness. We’ve learned about vision and mission. We’ve learned about the presence of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has given our leadership team wisdom as He has faithfully shown us many things.

   One of the biggest problems the Holy Spirit revealed early on was that our church, though full of wonderful, ministry-minded people, was attempting to continue running all the same programs and events that had made it popular in the past. The church’s history of generosity resulted in it often being the first phone call from people and organizations seeking sizeable donations, program sponsorships, and rent-free places to hold their events.

   We realized we weren’t that church anymore, and many of those things were no longer sustainable. So, we began to do what may be one of the most difficult things to do in ministry. We learned to say, “No.” It was difficult, and not everyone accepted the news with affirmation and understanding.

   However, over time, we realized why the Holy Spirit was working differently. He was teaching us to say “no” to people’s expectations so we could say “yes” to His new direction. If we allowed ourselves to constantly be pushed to the limit, with no margin on our calendar or in our resources, then we’d be in no position to say “yes” when He spoke something fresh and new. This is incredibly difficult if our ego is tied to what people think of our church. But if we are confident in our God, who He says we are, and what He has called us to do, we can serve well from a place of peace and contentment. Personally, I’ve learned the hard way that obedience is truly better than sacrifice.


   Once we had committed to prayer and were obediently following the leading of the Holy Spirit by creating some margin with our time and resources, we communicated God’s vision to our people as clearly and simply as possible. If you were here then, you know it happened almost by accident.

   I was preaching one Sunday, and these words came out of my spirit: “Our purpose as a church is to love people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus.” “What did I just say?” I thought. At that moment, I heard the Holy Spirit continue to speak: “Not just some people, but all people. All the people for whom I gave my life.” I went on to expound (hopefully by the leading of the Holy Spirit) that anyone and everyone was welcome to walk through our doors, just as they were, but that we also had to be willing to go to anyone and everyone.

   Recently, you may have seen a particular commercial on television. It was first broadcast during the Super Bowl in February. If you missed it, here’s the brief synopsis: it pictured Christians washing other people's feet, regardless of their spiritual condition or political position. It was quite upsetting for some, and it stirred up a firestorm! At the heart of the controversy was whether the commercial depicted the affirmation of sinful behavior and was too light on presenting the Gospel. No matter your opinion, I know one thing to be true: Jesus willingly washed Judas’ feet, too.

   As the church, we are called to be salt and light in our communities. We don’t just need to be salt and light at church – it’s filled primarily with believers! No, our purpose is to take the love of Jesus to the streets, and not just with large, organized church events, but also in the marketplaces, such as our work, our schools, our grocery stores, our restaurants, our ball fields, and everywhere else people happen to go.


   As God revealed our purpose as a church – to LOVE people to Jesus – it began to resonate, and our church began to grow. We're still purposefully reaching across our community through organized programs and events, yes, but also through our people’s interactions with others in everyday life. The methods are varied, but the message is always the same: Jesus loves you and wants to have a meaningful relationship with you.

   Hopefully, if someone encountered our church family in town throughout the week and knew they attended Hope Church, and they were asked about our church’s purpose, they’d respond quickly and easily with, “Loving people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus.” Jesus said it a bit differently, but the message is still the same: “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19, NLT). If we truly love people, we will “go,” and the process of bringing them into a life-changing relationship with Jesus is called “discipleship.”

   Our mission as a church – as people of God – is to go TO people and then walk WITH people as they learn to encounter Jesus for themselves. Perhaps a simple measurement of whether our church is healthy is just how much time we spend “going.” This is a huge thing to our Father, which is why the Holy Spirit led Peter to write, “He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9b). Lord, create a deep, insatiable burden in our hearts to go!


   Several months ago, I was teaching on a Sunday morning, and I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Meeting physical needs isn’t enough.” I was taken aback because, historically, our church had dedicated a significant amount of time and resources to meeting people’s physical needs.

   Here’s a simple reality: physical resources are limited. We’ll never have enough time and money to meet all the demands of people who don’t have enough. On the surface, this can seem quite discouraging or even a bit pessimistic. However, let’s turn our attention to a familiar passage of scripture in the Book of Acts.

   Peter and John were on their way into the Temple to pray, and a man was being placed near the gate where they were entering. This man had never walked. He’d never taken a single step because he was born lame. As Peter and John entered the gate, the man asked them for money. This was how he lived. It was how he survived.

   In a modern church scenario, here’s how this might go down. Some Christians would turn the other way, pretending to be in deep conversation and not hearing the request. Other, more “enlightened” believers would reach into their pockets, give the man some loose change, and maybe even offer a quick prayer of blessing, reminding the man that God loved him.

   Maybe there’s a third solution. Now, in this case, Peter and John didn’t have any money, so benevolence wasn’t an option (though I’d like to believe they would have given him some money if they had it in their possession.) So, instead, Peter offers these life-changing words: “I don’t have any silver or gold for you, but I’ll give you what I have” (Acts 3:6a).

   Church, is it possible that we’ve settled for option #1 or option #2 and forgotten that, in addition to helping those with physical resources when it’s within our power to do so (Proverbs 3:27), we have the Spirit of the Living God dwelling within us? Peter said, “In the name of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, get up and walk!” (Acts 3:6b).

   Yes, we absolutely should give out food and bottles of water. Scripture tells us this. Yes, we should provide backpacks and other resources if that is how the Holy Spirit leads. But how many opportunities have we missed to impart the life-changing power of God into someone’s life because we’ve become too content with giving a little cash or a hot meal?

   I fear that the scriptural idea of someone planting and someone else watering has become an excuse for spiritual laziness in the church. Yes, we understand that some things are a process and take time. However, far too often, we can miss God-ordained opportunities because we’re either too comfortable, too unconcerned, or even too fearful. When Paul spoke of himself and Apollos as being part of God’s process in ministry, it was in response to people giving undue adoration to spiritual leaders instead of glorifying God for the increase of souls.

   We must not assume that our part is “just” planting or watering. Rather, if we will allow ourselves to operate in the power of the Holy Spirit and the giftings He has placed within us, we might just see a harvest of souls and a litany of miracles, signs, and wonders in our day!


   At Hope Church, we’ve simplified our pattern of discipleship, and it’s become our focus in 2024. We say almost every Sunday something like, “We are becoming people of prayer to encounter the presence of God so we can minister in the power of the Holy Spirit.” Our mission is to love people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus, but we do that by becoming people of prayer who encounter the presence of God and function in the Holy Spirit’s power.

   So, yes, we will continue to intentionally reach out to our communities because that’s what Jesus would do. We’ll show them the love of God in tangible, practical ways because that’s what Jesus would do. We’ll meet some needs as God provides the resources because that’s what Jesus would do.

   However, let’s not miss the opportunity to be His instruments and see the power of the Holy Spirit at work in miraculous ways when we do meet those needs. It’s not an either/or proposition. We can do both. Just remember that if we run out of silver and gold, we still have the most powerful thing in the world to give when we operate with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. So, no matter what, let’s get into our communities and give them what we have – let’s give them Jesus!