Body, Mind & Spirit

Not long ago I seemed to be the most popular guy in town. People were literally lined up outside my office door. There was a young woman who needed diapers for her infant, a father with severe burns who needed money for food and prescriptions, and two other families who needed rental and utility assistance. I was overwhelmed by the need and of course, could not meet all of the deep financial realities these families were facing.

But not long after this experience, I began Re-Thinking church. I considered John Wesley’s loan ministry – a unique concept well ahead of its time. I began thinking about the difference between a “handout” and a “hand-up.” I wondered how the congregation and I could have a more profound impact in meeting the needs of families in our county?

I’m not sure I have all of the answers to this question, but I did arrive at one answer. The answer came one afternoon when an older gentleman visited yet again – a fellow who made his weekly rounds and requests like clockwork. His request was always the same: “Do you have any work I could do for pay?”

Pastors often hear this line when someone is in need and quite frankly, we often have reasons to disbelieve people will actually work for pay. But in my friend’s case, I believed him. I asked him what line of work he was in. “I’m a painter,” he told me. The next day, I put my friend to work painting the hallway at church. He did a great job, and three weeks later, when he once again appeared in my office asking for work, I set him to the task of painting my house. He is indeed a painter! I am paying and tipping him well for his experience and expertise. Nothing shoddy about this man’s work ethic, his gifts or his ability to paint my house – which looks like new, by the way.

Since this time, I have grown to appreciate the ministry of employment that the church and the individual has to offer. Since hiring my friend to paint my house, I’ve also offered work to men, women and teens who are eager to mow my yard, trim shrubs or line trim my flower beds. And listen – I pay good wages. I’m a good employer. People work hard for me – and they want to do more than I ask.

Here’s what I’ve learned: there is a great ministry in employment and the life-changing, life-giving threads of human dignity inherent in hard work are significant. I’ve also learned that most people would rather work for pay than receive a handout from the church or the pastor. There is worth and value in labor and whenever I hand my friends and helpers a wad of greasy dollars they always say “Thank you” and I get to say: “No, THANK YOU. You are a blessing!”

What work can people do for you and your congregation? Isn’t this Gospel?

Todd Outcalt is the senior pastor at Brownsburg Calvary and author of twenty books, most recently, The Ultimate Christian Living and $5 Youth Ministry. He’s saving his money so he can employ more people.