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Sep 21, 2014

Why Downtown Needs Mosaic

Passage: Jeremiah 29:4-14

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Why Mosaic?

Keywords: blessing, prosperity, city, work, entrepreneurship, success


This message looks at the role God's people are to play in the success of any city to which God sends them. Specifically it deals with what Mosaic brings that is needed to the core of our city.


WHY Downtown needs MOSAIC?

Part 3

September 21, 2014


What do you like about city living?

What do you dislike?

Why do people world over gravitate towards cities?

Cities play a prominent role in biblical history as well. There are some 330 of them mentioned by name in both the Old and New Testaments

Anyone know what the first city named in the Bible was? Enoch (See Gen. 4:17“Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.”). Enoch was the man who the Bible says “walked with God and was no more,” Gen. 5:24. Enoch walked faithfully with God [300 years according to Gen. 5:22]; then he was no more, because God took him away.”

So what is the last city named in the Bible? The new Jerusalem of Rev. 21-22. It’s the future of every one of us who are part of the church of Jesus Christ. It will be unlike any city you have ever seen. John describes it as being a cube shape, suspended in the sky.

As you can see from the representative picture here, we’re talking one MASSIVE city. Jesus wasn’t joking when he promised that there would be many mansions or apartments in His Father’s house!  

Today, statisticians tell us that 54% of the world’s roughly 7 billion people live in cities. By 2050, that percentage is projected to reach nearly 70%.

I don’t know what your theology about cities is but the Bible tells us that God has and still does deal with people in part based upon the cities of which they are a part.  

He views his churches on earth based in some manner upon the cities in which they reside. 

Jesus wept over Jerusalem and pronounced judgment over it and many other cities in Israel.  Paul’s missionary philosophy involved going from city to city, usually the most populous and strategic cities, in every area of the world he went.  

And the last message God gave to the church was given to THE (singular) church in each of the 7 cities mention in John’s book of Revelation. 

As one of the few churches in the heart of our city, Spokane, we are deeply committed to making the downtown core a great place to encounter God.  Since so much of the life of our city happens in and flows out of the core, we want to see this core experience God more fully than any other place in our city.  Yet so often it seems the least God-oriented, God-influenced or even God-blessed.  This is the center for government, business, entertainment, tourism and residential density.  We want to see it become the center of spiritual awakening and revival, too.  

There is no real secret to that happening.  There may be many steps or means.  But the fundamental way God blesses a city has always been the same:  the people in it must become God-seekers.  Whether Old or New Testament, God has called city-dwellers world over to seek Him first and foremost.  

For an example of this, go to Jeremiah 29.  Jeremiah is writing from ravaged Jerusalem to the thousands of Jews who had been taken captive by Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in the 6th century B.C.  Apparently there were plenty of false prophets willing to loudly proclaim to these captives that deliverance from king “Nebi” was just around the corner so they better keep their bags packed for a quick return to Israel.  God’s word to them through Jeremiah is fascinating.  And it tells us a lot about what God wants us to do no matter what city we find ourselves in.

Jeremiah 29:4-14

Sometimes living in any city of the world can get wearisome.  The best that man can do in architecture and commerce and entertainment is stained by sin, it gets old and fades and just can’t compare to that which God does either in nature or in the new heaven and new earth God has promised is coming.  And Christians can be some of the worst offenders of God’s command to “seek the welfare/good/success of the city”.  Yes, we are to live as strangers and foreigners in this world (I Pt. 2:11), looking forward to the heavenly city God has prepared for us (2 Pt. 3:13).  But while longing for that heavenly residence, we are not to despise the present earthly one either.  In fact, we are to work hard for its prosperity.

Vs. 7But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 

Somehow the welfare of God’s people is tied up with the prosperity of the cities we live in.  That is why we are command to pray FOR our city.  That is why we are to be the best citizens any city could want.  That is why the church is to be sowing into every aspect of city life the life and presence of Christ. 

Just as people separated from God don’t prosper, neither do cities whose people are separated from God.  But when the people of a city walk with God, that city prospers.  When God’s people pray and work to see God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, then a city prospers.

That’s why we “do” and “are” church downtown.

That’s why we volunteer at City Gate, Cup of Cool Water, Shalome Ministries, UGM, Women’s and Children’s Free Restaurant and more.  That’s why we support with significant amounts of money the Christian ministries that service the core of our city.  

But even more important than giving finances or time to these great ministries is the state of our hearts and that of our fellow residents in Spokane in relationship to God himself.  Vss. 11-14a.  Israel was in captivity in a foreign city because it was primarily a heart problem, a problem with idolatry.  They had wandered so far from God, serving idols and false gods, that God in his disciplining love said, “Alright, time out in Babylon until you are cured of your idolatry.  You want to live under the influence of other gods?  I’ll take you into paganism until you are sick of what those gods have to give and your heart wholeheartedly seeks me, the true and living God.”

Just as every city in this world faces problems, so every city’s problems have its roots in the relationship its citizens have or don’t have with God.  When people push God and His people out of their cities, it doesn’t go well for them. But when enough citizens are God’s people who have a heart for God and God’s heart about their fellow citizens, cities will change dramatically.  

That’s consistent with what we saw two weeks ago in looking at  Luke 10 and Jesus’ sending of the 72 to the towns and cities of Israel.  Blessings of the Kingdom of God coming near to those towns and cities was dependent upon a.) the obedience of followers of Jesus Christ to live by faith and GO to people needing God, and b.) the actual ministry of healing the people of those cities, and c.) the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom.  Presence, power and proclamation.  That’s what every city on earth needs.  

Now let’s talk a little bit about HOW God’s people can really make a lasting difference in a community like ours.  Whether we are giving the Gospel or giving financial assistance to people, it matters HOW it is done. 

If you don’t believe me, go watch how people respond to someone standing on a street corner or in the middle of Riverfront Park who just shouts at them about how they are going to hell if they don’t repent, shows them no personal love and seems to be angry about life.  Contrast that with what happens when a follower of Jesus takes the time to get to know what the needs of people around them are, spends time with those people, lives among them, shares their joys and sorrows, and in the context of life tells them how they can be reconciled with God through faith in Jesus Christ.  It matters HOW ministry is done.

That is never more true than when we are talking about helping the poor, whatever kind of poverty it is that grips them.  Despite the billions of dollars our country has thrown at poverty both here in America as well as dozens of countries around the world, typically government aid has done very little to put a dent in the problems of poverty.  There are multiple reasons for that.  

But God has given us some clear direction in His Word about HOW to help the poor…and how NOT to help them.  Let’s take a brief look at that and then see how God is unfolding opportunities for us at Mosaic to do that.

Two weeks ago I laid the biblical foundation for the fact that God has called his people of all centuries to care for the poor.  That care is to include financial help at time, justice and equality before the law at all times, generosity, fair wages for work, sometimes loans but never charging high interest, never enslaving of the poor, hearts filled with compassion for those in need and much more.  

The Bible also recognizes that poverty has many causes and thus the solutions for it must deal with the systemic causes.  Let’s look at a few examples.

  1. Proverbs 13:23—“An unplowed field produces food for the poor, but injustice sweeps it away.”    I think Solomon was talking here about the fields that were to be left fallow, unplowed every 7th year.  In Exodus 23:10-11 God instructed Israel about how to both give the land rest as well as take care of the poor.  ““For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, 11 but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.”  What Solomon is recognizing is that even when God provides for the poor through a fallow field, some hard working poor can still be poor because of human injustice that may swoop down and take even that meager provision from them.  Whether it is loan sharks or tax collectors or war, injustice can mess with God’s provisions for the poor.  So the solutions for this kind of poverty may involve changing laws, stopping wars or otherwise physically protecting the poor from stronger people who would take advantage of them.
  1. But sometimes poverty is the fault of the poor themselves. 
    1. Poverty can come because people value the wrong things.  Proverbs 21:17 says, “Whoever loves pleasure will be poor; whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich.”  Having the wrong priorities in life will often lead to poverty.  Loving the passing pleasures of food and drink, or entertainment and fast living will often lead one into financial ruin.  We could put drug addiction right next to “wine” in this passage.  How many people are poor because they have never learned to discipline themselves enough to say “no” to their feelings and immediate desires in order to say “yes” to long-range financial stability or prosperity?  Proverbs 23:20-21—“Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat,  for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.”
    2. Poverty can be the wage for idleness, laziness or foolishness.  Proverbs 10:4-5 says, “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.  He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.”  Laziness and a love of sleep rather than work should naturally lead to poverty whereas hard, stead work normally leads to prosperity.  (See also Proverbs 20:13.) 

This truth is echoed again in the N.T. when Paul reminds the Thessalonian believers how he modeled hard work right along with preaching the gospel.  2 Thess. 3:6ff says, In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching[a] you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”  11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.  14 Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. 15 Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.” 

            There are several really important issues at work in this passage.

1.) This is a command of Christ, not just Paul.

2.) It involves the entire church, not just leaders or those who may be charged with working with the idle person.  The church…all of us…are not to coddle or indulge the lazy person.

3.)  The church is to model for the idle what work is and how it is just as “spiritual” and important as ministry.  

4.)  The church is not to enable or pamper those who are able to work but won’t.

So what’s the response you will get most frequently when you ask an “unemployed” American why they are not working?  

“I can’t find a job.”  “No one will hire me.”  “I’m unemployed.”  

What would Paul’s response to that have probably been?  

  • Go get a trade.
  • Go make a job.
  • Go find someone who needs good workers.
  • Put as much time into beating the street every day as you will have to put into keeping a job once you get one.  

Here is one area where a whole lot of business, labor and government has gotten it wrong. Certainly there are people who, because of physical or mental issues, have a diminished capacity for work.  Charity is always in order when that is the case. 

But even here, shouldn’t charity be in relationship to the level of “disability” or limitation?  If you have serious back problems, manual labor work is probably out of the question.  But much of the economy today doesn’t require manual labor.  So should we be developing, offering and finding jobs commensurate with a person’s work capacity and ability rather than giving 3 years of “unemployment” or a lifetime of “disability” to people who have some capacity to work? 

Even the shelters that house and feed people, shouldn't they by asking something in return?  What does it do to the dignity of someone when they work for a few hours and then get paid in food or lodging?  Isn’t that what most people are doing 5 days a week anyway, just in a different setting and at a higher level of pay?  

This is not to say that everything we get or give in life should be directly tied to our work effort.  God gives to all of us far more in blessings in this life than we could ever work for.  To be His children means that we must do likewise.  Whether it’s the working poor who are knocking themselves out day after day, perhaps working several jobs, but just can’t seem to make ends meet, we should give not only a helping hand to bridge the gap but we should give friendship, ongoing financial council and plenty of spiritual and emotional support.  Need…and meeting needs…can be a strong relationship-builder IF it is handled in the right way.  

But handled in the wrong way, our giving and “help” diminishes dignity of the poor while increasing their dependency.  Decades of free aid from well-meaning benefactor has produced an entitlement mentality and eroded a spirit of entrepreneurship and God-given self-sufficiency and independence. In a society famous for giving opportunity to just about anyone to try just about any new idea or job, why have so many of us stopped dreaming and stopped trying to see our dreams become reality?

If kids can create businesses, why can’t more adults? Listen to a few examples of what children and teens have done in the business arena with the freedom they had to dream and work.

  • Leanna Archer was just 9 years old when she began bottling and selling her own hair pomade to friends and family. Based on her great-grandmother's secret recipe, Archer's line of all-natural hair products has expanded to include a variety of hair cleansers, conditioners and treatments. The now-17-year-old serves as the CEO of her company and has been recognized by prominent business publications like Forbes and Success Magazine. She even started the Leanna Archer Education Foundation to help build schools and safe learning environments for underprivileged children in Haiti.
  • In December 2010, a new mobile game app called "Bubble Ball" was launched on the Apple app store. In its first two weeks it received more than 1 million downloads, surpassing "Angry Birds" as the most downloaded free game from Apple. This game was built entirely by Robert Nay, a 14-year-old with no previous coding experience. According to CNN, Nay learned everything he needed to know through research at the public library, and produced 4,000 lines of code for his physics-based puzzle game in just one month. The teen entrepreneur's company, Nay Games, released 24 new levels for "Bubble Ball" in August 2013.
  • Most young boys are revolted by the idea of getting dressed up, but Moziah Bridges is a rare exception. After being disappointed in the bow ties available to him on the market, Bridges learned how to sew his own with the help of his grandmother. The fashion-forward 11-year-old began selling his creations on Etsy, and his products were soon picked up by boutiques in several southeastern states. So far, Bridges has earned over $30,000 from his bow ties, and told Forbes that he eventually plans to start a children's clothing company.
  • How many teens can say that a multinational corporation purchased their company and made them millionaires? There's probably not a lot, but Nick D'Aloisio is one of them. The 17-year-old entrepreneur is the tech prodigy behind Summly, a summarization app that algorithmically creates summaries of news articles optimized for the iPhone. At 15, he received backing from Horizon Ventures and other angel investors to develop his technology, and in March 2013, Yahoo acquired D'Aloisio's company for $30 million.

It’s time the church started doing a more sanctified entrepreneurship rather than just raising more money to give more food and clothing to more people.

Andy Bales, CEO of the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles said, “Giving cash to someone in need is the least helpful and most temporary solution and should only be a last resort.”  His years of experience have taught him that most panhandlers are not really homeless at all.  Most are scammers who may collect $300 a day from kindhearted passersby and at the end of the day walk a block or two to their cars and drive home.

Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action says, “A quick donation is cheap love.  There is simply no way to tell whether a story is legitimate, or if a person will spend the money on drugs or alcohol.  Supporting immorality, laziness, or destructive behavior is simply irresponsible and clearly not a loving act.  Scripture demands that we stand on the side of the poor, but it certainly does not tell us to give irresponsibly.”  He concludes by saying, “If you don’t have time to invest in forging a trusting relationship, then give your money to a ministry that does.” 

Should we never simply give food away? No, even Jesus gave food away to thousands of people on several different occasions.  But not all those people were poor.  He simply had compassion on a bunch of hungry people who were physically hungry that day because their spiritual hunger had led them to skip a meal or two so they could satisfy the hunger of their souls listening to Jesus.  

            We also know Jesus gave money to the poor.  Even at the Last Supper when Jesus told Judas Iscariot to go and do what he was determined to do, the other disciples thought Jesus was probably telling him to go buy more food for the Passover or “to give something to the poor” (John 13:29). 

            So ministering to the most basic needs of people in need IS what Christ-followers are to do at times.

APP: So let me ask, is feeding and helping the poor personally in some way, at least occasionally, part of your Christ-following experience? If it isn’t, I think something needs to change. If it is, then I think you already know how it can change your life.

HOW we help the core of our city matters just as much as the fact that we do help them. Ongoing relationships that are built upon and between richer and poorer based on giving and receiving with no work transaction taking place have a tendency to produce a victim-rescuer relationship.  Those kinds of need-driven relationships don’t usually reduce need.  They often perpetuate it.  The “needy person” brings their dilemma; the giver brings the solution.  When one problem is solved, another must be presented in order for the relationship to continue.  If the needy no longer needs a solution, the giver is no longer needed.  

Someone has suggested that, like the medical profession’s Hippocratic Oath, the charity profession should adopt an “Oath of Compassionate Service” to guide us toward providing responsible and effective aid.  They have suggested the following commitments.

  • Never do for the poor what they have (or could have) the capacity to do for themselves.
  • Limit one-way giving to emergency situations.
  • Strive to empower the poor through employment, lending, and investing, using grants sparingly to reinforce achievements.
  • Put your own self-interests behind the needs of those being served.
  • Listen closely to those you seek to help, to what they both say and don’t talk about.
  • Above all, do no harm.   

So what can we do as the people of God? This is one of the reasons we have been searching diligently for over a year and a half for a different location for Mosaic. Downtown doesn’t need another soup kitchen or rescue mission or place for the homeless to stay. Yes, we need what we already have and we need to help, support and resource the existing Christian ministries that target the homeless and the most basic needs of people.

            But we also need to move on to the next step. We need to offer to people more than Christian relief work. We need to be able to help them develop,to take the next step into learning how to responsibly care for their own needs and eventually begin caring for others needs as Christ would have them.

People who don’t or won’t ever learn that will never be spiritually mature. People who do will find more of Christ in more of their life.

That’s been one of the great blessings in pastoring this flock at Mosaic. SO MANY of you are using your careers as calling to be Christ to others. So many of you are engaging people in need in dozens of different avenues. You are being the eyes of compassion of Christ when you look someone in the eye and treat them with dignity and respect. You are being the arms of God when you come up to someone who hasn’t been hugged all week and hugging them. You are encountering Christ as you take people shopping, give them rides, help them move, invite them to your table for a meal. I know God rejoices over that and so much more so many do.

So what is Mosaic’s next step in serving our city?

1.)    We’re going to move to a facility that will allow us the opportunity to help some people take the “next step” in learning to treat work as a God-given mission while providing to our community things that bring added value and change to their lives.

2.)    Let me tell you about one of the possible ways that might take shape through one of the several different ministries and businesses we are hoping and praying will be launched. [Introduce Candice Auchenbach and interview her about UNITE, ministry to medically fragile foster children.]

3.)    Some of the other options we are currently researching are a downtown youth center, a community-oriented bike shop that teaches people how to fix and maintain their own bikes in a guided mentoring-type relationship, a coffee shop-like establishment that serves as a meeting place by day an an all-age concert venue in by night.

Such an adventure will take lots of work. It will also provide both jobs and the kind of environment where willing people can be taught a godly ethic about work. It will require lots of faith by all of us. It will need no small number of volunteers to successfully launch and grow.

            But it will be the best thing many of us have ever done in our entire life. It will transform children and families, young people and single adults. It will bring hope to those who today feel hopeless and it will bring spiritually drifting people to life-changing encounters with Christ that reshape their lives and eternities.

You ready for a journey that changes our city?

  • Then start praying for the right relocation site.
  • Start asking God what He wants you to DO in that relocation and how he wants to use you as His conduit to bless our city.
  • Start praying that God will give us the faith to see what He sees can happen and the boldness to step into it through personal commitment.


For further study:

1.)    Isaiah 58 is about God’s people, Israel, being disappointed with the lack of fruit from their most “spiritual” exercises. Before you read this chapter through, write down some of the ways in which you may have experienced disappointment in your relationship with God.

2.)    Now read this chapter straight through. What was the problem from the people’s perspective? What was the problem from God’s perspective?

3.)    What was God’s solution to His seeming silence? How many different things did God call them to change?

4.)    If you were the Israelites, how would you have reacted to God’s instructions?

5.)    What do you find keeps you from or makes it difficult to have personal engagement with the poor of Spokane?

6.)    Imagine that this passage was written directly to you. Ask God how it might apply to your life. What might He be asking you to change about your life or activities? What will you do this week to obey His call in this passage this week or month?

7.)    When it comes to helping the poor, we talked about the difference between enabling and equipping. What might need to change about how you assist the poor so that you decrease their dependency on handouts while increasing their empowerment to find long-term solutions?

8.)    Read Matthew 25:31-46 again. How does knowing that Jesus is, in some way, present/represented in the needy types of people he mentions change your view of them? How does God want it to change your involvement with them in the future?

9.)    Why do you think how we treat the hungry, thirsty, homeless, poorly clothed, sick, fatherless, widows, downtrodden and incarcerated matter so much to God? Why should it matter to us?