going deeper.

Last week I wrote about the desire of the Christian Service Center to treat holistically the neighbors who come seeking its services. Amy Sherman had that great quote contrasting “handouts” and “hand-ups” in relation to working with the poor. She wrote that interacting relationally with those in need is considerably harder than the “benevolence” approach traditionally used by churches and agencies because it may involve more time or financial commitment.

Sherman touches on this briefly, but I believe the rehabilitation of our societies most downtrodden people also involves deep spiritual direction and support. I am beginning to believe more and more that few aspects, positive or negative, in our lives are disconnected from our spiritual condition. For instance, depression may be a diagnosed clinical condition, but it also is probably a spiritual oppression. The same can be said about poverty and the array of issues that accompany it. If we are going to offer people a “hand-up” rather than simply enabling a lifestyle of poverty, we must begin thinking seriously about each neighbor’s spiritual condition.

Spiritual direction has always been an aspect of the services provided at the Christian Service Center, but Jim Clark and I have begun brainstorming and thinking “outside the box” on ways to make this a more central part of what the CSC offers. For instance, instead of sending our poor neighbors away with a prayer and a Bible, how can we invite neighbors into the radical way of Jesus Christ? How can we more effectively interact “incarnationally” in relation to the spiritual condition of our neighbors who walk in for some food or clothing? What role might prayer or accountability play in such a scenario?

We are beginning to ask such questions at the CSC. From your experience, what input would you have regarding the role of spiritual formation/direction in a traditional benevolence ministry?

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