Yesterday I volunteered at the Northampton Jesus Centre, a social centre run by the Jesus Army in a former cinema. People with various needs come here, and I’ve had some great talks with several of them; listening, testifying and praying. I also got to help the Centre out with their Facebook communication, being an Internet junkie and all.
The Lord called me to do social ministry with the poor seven years ago. A dear friend and brother of mine had left the faith, and as I prayed about this with some friends on a Christian community conference in Stockholm a guy called Nils received a prophetic word. He said that the Lord wanted me to use my hands in serving the poor, and out my theoretical theological understanding of the importance of economic equality into practical love. When I did this, my friend would come back to Jesus.
I then became involved in the Uppsala City Mission’s work with the homeless and drug addicts. I learned a lot and became more social, which also benefited my evangelism. I continued to serve the poor practically and eventually started my own organization, Stefanushjälpen or St Stephen’s Help. And my friend did come back to Jesus and is very zealous for Him nowadays.
Probably every single one who are involved in social work will agree that it’s very difficult. Poverty isn’t just about economics, addiction isn’t just about habits, homelessness isn’t just about shelter. These things affect everything and changes human beings fundamentally. And so it’s often a real challenge to try to help them. But thankfully, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13).
About two weeks ago I wrote about how Stephen in Acts 6-8 was a charismatic apologist. He was also a charismatic social worker. He was elected to serve the widows in the Jerusalem church on the merits of being filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3), and he performed signs and wonders as he was helping them out (v. 8). That’s why I named my organisation after him. There are many other Biblical examples as well: as Elijah ministered to a widow in 1 Kings 17, he used the power of God to supply her and her son with food and to raise her son from the dead, saving her from economic disaster.
As a charismatic church, the Jesus Army’s social ministry also leaves room for the Spirit to do His work. And that’s desperately needed. In the Army’s early days, drug addicts were completely sober as they were baptised and they were healed from the scars that the mainlining had produced. And the Holy Spirit hasn’t changed. Let’s serve the poor and marginalised in the power of miracles!