175 McMichael Road, Carnegie, PA US 15106
One of the amazing aspects of Jesus’ earthly ministry is how He ministered personally to people by giving attention to their immediate physical needs. Arthur Glasser, a missionary and author of Announcing the Kingdom, states this about Jesus’ ministry here on earth:
“Of the sixty-four recorded instances of his contact with individuals, we find not one instance of his sending a person away without giving personal attention to his or her problem and need. The sick, the sinful, the handicapped, the erring, the spiritual needy - all found in him a helpful, loving friend.”
Let that sink in! Scripture records sixty-four instances of Jesus ministering to people on an individual basis. Most, if not all of these instances took place on that person’s home turf, and Jesus always went out of his way to give his children the personal attention they needed. With merciful compassion, Jesus used the physical need of an individual (hunger, disease, etc.) as a starter to open up conversation and point them to their ultimate spiritual need - a relationship with him.
When we launched the Wilkinsburg Campus nearly four years ago, I was excited to hit the ground running! We did prayer walks, shared the Gospel on the streets, and met with community leaders in local coffee shops and diners. Things started off well, but something was missing; we were aggressively sharing the message of Jesus, but struggling to connect with the local community, specifically those in physical need. That all changed after a conversation I had over coffee with a gentleman who did urban ministry for nearly fifty years. With one statement, he changed my view on urban ministry and showed me how to connect with people in an area with desperate physical needs.
This gentleman simply said, “They won’t listen to you talking about their spiritual need until you meet their physical need."
"When they are hungry for food, feed them first."
Now, I fully believe in God’s divine power to change a person’s heart in a moment without us ever addressing their physical needs, but what this urban ministry veteran shared with me is that we also have a mission to meet the physical needs of those who are hurting. Jesus did this many times in Scripture. Whether it was feeding five thousand hungry listeners, healing the blind, or curing a leper, Jesus met physical needs while, more importantly, speaking into the spiritual need of each individual that he interacted with.
At the Wilkinsburg Campus it has become ingrained in our DNA to minister to both the physical and spiritual needs of our community. We see this call to action in the Bible in passages such as Matthew 25:37-40, James 2:14-17 or Psalm 82:3. Whether it’s a diaper giveaway for single moms and families with newborns, a Thanksgiving food drive, free backpacks and school supplies for elementary students, or simply walking a person in need down to the local Save-a-Lot to buy them some groceries, God continues to open doors for us to meet the physical needs of those in our community and use those ministries to bridge the gap to a conversation about Jesus Christ. It’s amazing the conversations God opens up when you minister to the spiritual need of an individual through their present physical need.
Our most consistent ministry to the physical needs of our community is our Sunday morning breakfast ministry. Every Sunday morning for the past three years, we feed sixty to seventy people with freshly made bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches. I may be biased, but I believe they are the best breakfast sandwiches in the East End of Pittsburgh!
During this time of food and fellowship, our team sits down with local folks who need a meal and engages them in impactful conversations. Many who come are regulars who we know by name. They don’t always stay for the service, but for now that’s ok. God is planting seeds as we love on them through the hot breakfast, and share what Jesus Christ is doing in our lives and can do in theirs if they open the door and let him in.
Every conversation we have during breakfast has an eternal impact, but the most rewarding relationships are with people who have connected with us beyond just the breakfast ministry. I think right away of a single mom who came in one day for a free meal and is now a part of our church body, dedicated her life to Christ, and was baptized in front of her children. In addition, we have seen our children and youth ministries grow from twenty to sixty students in just two years. Many of these students came in hungry for food and we fed them. Now they are getting spiritually fed with the Word of God, who is making eternal impact through breakfast sandwiches. How cool is that!?
When people ask me what my favorite part of the week in Wilkinsburg is, I usually say our Sunday morning breakfast ministry. I get to see our team come early in the morning to prepare to serve our community. Then, I get to witness our regulars come in with smiles on their faces knowing they are coming to a safe place to get a meal and be encouraged. Last but not least, I get to come in every Sunday knowing God will most likely bring someone new that day whom I have not met before. As I pray walking into the building on Sunday mornings I often ask God, “Ok Lord, what are you going to do new today through your breakfast ministry?” You see, it’s all about Jesus. This is HIS breakfast ministry.
He ministered to the physical needs of those whom he impacted, and now he is using us to do the same!
Right above our coffee station, there is a verse posted that you can’t miss. It often starts some good conversation with those who come in for a meal. That verse is:
John 6:35 – Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Many times people have asked me, “What is that Bible verse talking about?” I simply smile and say, “Let’s sit down and eat some breakfast together and I’ll tell you. You see, that sandwich can only satisfy your earthly hunger. Let me share how only God can satisfy your spiritual need.”
Think about it; how can you minister to someone by meeting their physical needs? With a Christ-centered mindset, anything from digging wells in Kenya, to helping a neighbor repair a shed, or even hosting a backyard barbecue can provide a chance to share the good news of the Gospel with people! Be ready, willing, and on the lookout to serve others, and God will provide the opportunities. Now, go! Serve. Love. Make disciples.