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Sep 07, 2014

Why Mosaic Needs Downtown Spokane?

Why Mosaic Needs Downtown Spokane?

Passage: 2 Corinthians 8:9

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Why Mosaic?

Keywords: mosaic fellowship, poverty, riches, downtown, disciples, witness, growth


This first of three messages in the series "Why Mosaic?" looks at why Mosaic and the God's church needs to be in the places of greatest need in any city or culture. It also examines why being there and getting into relationship with the poor is so critical to every believer's spiritual development in Christ.


WHY MOSAIC Needs Downtown Spokane

Part 1

September 7, 2014


Today is the first in a 3-week short series I’ve entitled “WHY MOSAIC?”

We are at a critical crossroads as a church. In the next 4-8 months, we will be making some changes that will enable us to more fully engage in some of the things God put on our hearts to do from the very beginning of Mosaic over 7 years ago.

Most of those changes will be very welcome. They will, for instance, give us much larger, more functional facilities.

  • We’ll probably double the size of our worship space.
  • We’ll actually acquire classrooms that will greatly improve the ministry we have with children, youth and adults.
  • We will be able to launch out into community-serving business partnerships that are ministries we’ve long desired to advance.
  • We’ll have parking we don’t have to pay for or get kicked out of on Spokane’s special event weekends like Bloomsday or Hoopfest! (Do I hear an AMEN?)

Most of the changes will probably make most of us feel much better about what we experience together as a church.

But some of those changes may challenge some of us in different ways. Change, even when it is good change, means some people will choose not to make the change with us. Some of you might end up going to a different local expression of God’s church in Spokane. But some of God’s people in Spokane will choose to join us in the new journey. And God willing we will see a whole new generation of Christ-followers moving into personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ because of these changes.

But before we talk a lot about what that change is going to entail, we need to get a clear focus on the kind of ministry God has called Mosaic to. We need to be crystal clear about what that ministry is and why God has called us to do it in downtown Spokane.

So today’s focus in this “Why Mosaic” series is, “WHY MOSAIC Needs Downtown Spokane.”


From the beginning we’ve had this little tag line that says, “Mosaic—Experiencing the heart of God in the heart of the city.”

First of all, THE most important experience any of us can have is our experience of God. If we’re experiencing God as His Word says he wants us to know him, that experience will take place all day long, all week long, all year long in every conceivable activity or experience of our lives.

There isn’t any corner of our experience that God doesn’t want to be a part of. And if there is some corner of our experience that we’re ashamed to have God be a part of, then we probably should “remodel” that corner of our life so God can come into it.

God doesn’t just want to be present, felt and experienced in our “worship life” once a week on Sunday mornings or during our community group Bible study together. He wants to be known and experienced in our school life, our social life, our business life, our driving life…even our sex life. (Yes, I did say that!)

Our experience together as the people of God… followers of Jesus Christ…should particularly prepare us to experience God all week long when we’re not together as “the church.” Everything we do here together should so infuse us with the life of God that it prepares us to spend the rest of the week with our families, our coworkers, our classmates, our clients and our neighbors helping them experience God too. If it doesn’t, we’re failing to obey the Great Commission that Christ gave us when he left this earth and told us he was coming back—the commission to “make disciples [Christ-followers] of all people.”

So back to the lead question: Why does Mosaic need downtown Spokane to do that…to both experience God’s transformational work in us and to help others experience Him in the same way? Why is the core of this city so important to the core of our growth in Christ?

The downtown core of our city has both the richest and the poorest people living and working side-by-side.

It has some of the smartest and some of the most mentally challenged people in our community…and a lot of us very average people in between.

Downtown Spokane has some of the wisest and some of the most foolish, some of the most beautiful and some of the most tortured and disfigured people in our community.

Downtown has some of the most godly and some of the most ungodly people in our city…some of the most compassionate and some of the most indifferent people.

            You get the point. In short, the core of our city has the best and the worst of our city…the broadest spectrum of good and evil imaginable.

Statistically, we know that the downtown demographic has the highest density of any population area in Spokane. At the same time it has some of the greatest isolation and loneliness in our city. It has the highest poverty. It has some of the worst crime. It has some of the lowest employment and some of the lowest wages. It has some of the highest addiction rates and the poorest health factors. It has the highest concentration of mental illness, of criminal history and of sexual exploitation.

So why on earth would God want His people to live, work, play, worship, pray and minister in this place? Listen to God’s word spoken through the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:9. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”

God, the “richest” being in the universe, chose the “poorest” place in the universe to pour out His life. The distance and difference between Bill Gates to the hungriest, dirtiest, poorest person in this world is nothing compared to the distance and difference between God and human sinners like us whom He chose to come and hang out with, minister to and live among.

            So God, knowing that we could never bridge that gap between us and Him, between our poverty and His riches, did THE best possible thing—he set aside His riches in glory, became “incarnate”—God in human flesh—and lived his entire life among the poor…as a poor man…with the poor…so thatthrough His poverty” WE might become rich in both time and eternity.

            And then He turns to every one of us who have tasted of the riches of life in Jesus Christ and says, “Go and do likewise.” “Invite people to follow you as you follow me.” “Lose your life for Christ and the Kingdom and you will find it.” “Give away and it shall be given to you.”

The people of God simply cannot experience the fullness of God without engaging the poverty of our world.

We cannot claim to “know Christ” well without experiencing Christ fully…in the midst of the poverty-stricken world He chose to live in and come to.

We cannot claim to be living the incarnational life of Christ in our community if we are not following Christ into the lives of the people most needing Christ who is mankind’s spiritual “physician.”

There is a mysterious and unbreakable connection between genuine spirituality and grinding poverty. The poor are not more spiritual or more important because they are poor. But God’s people need the poor if we are to truly become like Christ.

There is an unbreakable connection between godly living and great need. In a world of need, we cannot become godly while effectively ignoring the poor around us or refusing to have relationship with them. And if we’re brutally honest with ourselves about the church in America, it is a tiny fraction of the church that ever gets personally involved with the poor. Instead we choose to hide out in big, suburban, middle-class gatherings of “Christians” who don’t want to be asked to get very personally involved with other Christians like themselves much less people very different from themselves.

When the church ignores or only makes occasional forays into the poverty of this world and the poor of our community, we are ignoring and depreciating one of the most powerful and important means God has given us to become more like Jesus.

That is one very important reason why WE need downtown…and why we are downtown. Life together with, among, next to and in relationship with the poor changes US. It allows us to truly become “like Christ” in so many ways that would otherwise be impossible.

But before we look at some of those ways, I want us to look at what God has to say about the poor and the kind of connections He desire for us…even commands us…to have with them.

So let’s start at the foundation. There are a couple of questions I want you to think about together with those around you today before we dive into God’s word and look for answers.

            Group up with 3-5 others around you and answer these questions. [Don’t leave anyone sitting alone nearby you. That would be evidence of another kind of poverty! J]

1.)    What different kinds of poverty exist in our world?

2.)    Just what IS poverty? Come up with a singular definition that fits all the different kinds of poverty you discussed in question #1.

3.)    Is all poverty necessarily bad? If not, when might it be good?

[10 minutes of discussion.

1st service start time: _____________________

2nd service start time: ____________________]

[My answers:

1.)    Different kinds of poverty: spiritual, relational, mental, physical/health, financial, emotional, character, lack of discipline, wisdom, etc. Our culture only seems to really recognize and seek to alleviate one type of poverty: financial/economic. Strange, because we live in one of the richest nations of the world that has had more opportunity to create wealth than just about any nation in history.

2.)    WHAT is poverty?

  1. “The state of being extremely poor.”
  2. “The state of being inferior in quality or insufficient in amount.”
  3. Poor = lacking sufficient money to live at a standard considered comfortable or normal in a society.
  4. Worse than is usual, expected, or desirable; of a low or inferior standard or quality.

3.)    NOT necessarily always bad.

  1. Mt. 5:3--“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
  2. James 2:5--“Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”
  3. Psalm 35:10“My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you, Lord? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.”
  4. Psalm 113:7—“[God] raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap.”
  5. Proverbs 19:1—“Better the poor whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips are perverse.”
  6. Proverbs 19:22—“Better to be poor than a liar.” Wow, so much for a whole lot of rich and powerful people in our world!
  7. Isaiah 25:4—“You [God] have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.”

Last question: Why is economic poverty so important in to understanding any kind of poverty? [Leads to so many other kinds? Most visible? Most easily remedied?]

So what is God’s heart and desire when it comes to (economic) poverty and the poor?

To begin to answer that question, let’s start in the O.T. and move forward in time to the church age.

1.)    God desires fairness and justice, not favoritism, when it comes to our treatment of the poor. This command pops up in a variety of places in the O.T. and cuts both directions.

  1. Exodus 23:2-3—God gave the children of Israel laws about justice and mercy. Here’s what He had to say about giving testimony in court. “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, and do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit.”  This is repeated in Leviticus 19:15 when God said, “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.”

Justice is to be blind to the economic plight of people. Just because you are poor does not mean you are owed a special tipping of the scales of justice. Justice has to do with right and wrong, not poverty and wealth.

The root of this is, of course, the nature of God. God doesn’t play favorites. His compassion over poverty is in balance with is justice about right and wrong. (See Acts 10:34-5 for Peter’s affirmation of this truth when it came to Gentiles and spiritual poverty—“In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”

There is something seriously wrong with any justice system that either favors the rich or the poor.

2.)    God desires compassion and generosity to meet with hard work and industry. Just as poverty is not simply about the poor, so wealth and the presence of prosperity is not simply about the rich.

On the one hand, the “haves” are to develop God’s heart of compassion, generosity and love for their near neighbors who are poor. In the O.T. agrarian economy, that was to be partially accomplished by leaving some of the harvest for the poor. God’s people were not to harvest every last bit of grain or olives or figs on their property. They were to leave some for the poor who either didn’t own land or whose crops had failed that year.

But there is another side to this, a side that is sorely missing in our culture today. The “have not’s” were required to work for it as long as they were able bodied.

Leviticus 19:10 and 23:22 speak about this. Let’s read just the first passage.

“Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.”

ILL: One of the assignments I give first year students in my spring semester class at Moody is to develop a biblical principle for us today from this passage. If the class has 30 students, 27 or 28 of them will talk about how we should go out and help the poor by giving them food or sharing our clothes with them. Only about 3 or 4 of them will connect that giving with any kind of work on the part of the poor person.

      Why is that? Because we live in a culture that has divorced compassion for the poor from work BY the poor. By doing so, we rob the poor of SO much more than money. And when we engage in Christian welfare, we do the same thing.

Robert Lupton in his book Toxic Charity: How the Church Hurts Those They Help (and How to Reverse It), Lipton says this,

      “Giving to those in need what they could be gaining from their own initiative may well be the kindest way to destroy people…

“Why do we miss this crucial aspect in evaluating our charitable work? Because, as compassionate people, we have been evaluating our charity by the rewards we receive through service, rather than the benefits received by the served. We have failed to adequately calculate the effects of our service on the lives of those reduced to objects of our pity and patronage.” [Lupton, Toxic Charity, p. 4.]

      And I might add that when we do that, we are really loving ourselves more than we are loving our poor neighbors. This is a critical distinction. Because when we recognize that WE need the poor in order to grow in godly qualities such as compassion, love and generosity, but we don’t recognize that HOW we do our generosity and compassion and love matters, we end up measuring our growth by the wrong yard stick and actually not helping the poor.

ILL: Genuine love doesn’t just hand out goodies to people anymore than a genuinely loving parent would simply shower their children with candy day after day. Loving parents, when their children start to reach the age when they can begin to make a connection between life’s blessings and life’s work, start teaching their children that if they want to enjoy the good things of life, they must begin working for them. It may be as simple as having little children help set the table or do the dishes.

To spend the first 18 years of their lives giving them the blessings of life without requiring that they learn HOW those blessings come through hard work and human industry is to at best hand them a huge shock when they turn 18 and at worst cripple them for a lifetime through parental welfare.

And single parents, you are particularly susceptible to this danger. I often see single parents feeling like the must somehow make up for the lack of another parent in the home or must compete with their ex by giving more and more stuff to their kids. Doing so simply raises another generation of narcissistic non-working citizens.

Why has God designed the world so that we should work if we want to eat, drink and be happy?

Our God is a god of WORK! He is always working (as Jesus told us in John ???). So if the best for every human being is that we become more like God, then work must be a part of the equation of a fulfilling, successful life. God has connected work with money/wealth in such a way that it helps us become more like him by encouraging us to work. Wealth/money simply given to people without it being connected to work actually does more damage than good. [See sermon on “Sanctifying Work” from Feb. 2014 series in I Thess.] We’ll look more at this next week when we talk about why Spokane’s core needs Mosaic.

Let’s close this morning’s look at why we need to be sharing life with the poor of our city by looking at a couple of stories Jesus gave us in the Gospels.

We’re all familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. As we read it, ask yourself what genuine compassion and true spirituality actually DID to show love.

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

The really troublesome barb in this story is that it was the religious, supposedly close-to-god, really spiritual people (the priest and the Levite) who failed to show compassion. But it was the despised Samaritan, the Jewish half-breed, cult member who really loved his neighbor, the poor victim of thieves and robbers.

So let me ask you, what did the Samaritan have to do in order to actually live the love of God to this needy man?

  1. Heart of compassion.
  2. Interrupt his plans.
  3. Took a risk.
  4. Got personally involved (he didn’t just pay someone else to do it).
  5. Made a personal investment of time, money, bandages/clothes, effort and care.

Do you see how really engaging with the poor will really mess with our souls, our schedules and our savings? That doesn’t mean that everyone who thinks they are poor and deserve our generosity actually should be helped any more than God gives able-bodied people free money from heaven every day. We’ll talk more next week about how to really help rather than enable or enslave the poor.

But when someone is in a place where they cannot help themselves, God calls us to make a difference in their lives. When we choose to just hang around middle class American Christians who may be just like us, we miss out on both the heart and hand of God in our day.

Jesus told another story in Luke 16 about a poor man named Lazarus and an unnamed and unmoved rich man who observed Lazarus every day and did virtually nothing for him. Just as a heart of compassion, generosity and love can be developed daily, so a heart of indifference and stinginess gets cultivated.

This rich man cultivated indifference to poor Lazarus. Though Lazarus lay at his gate daily, the rich man neither saw him nor cared about him.

The fact that the rich man ended up in hell was not because he was rich. It was because he failed to consider God’s call on his life and the implications that could have had on his sinful, hard heart. His indifference to poverty all around him was not the root issue; it was his indifference to God who alone can change hard hearts into generous and loving hearts that landed him in the torment of Sheol.

So too, our indifference to the poverty around us is not the root problem. It is our indifference to God and the work that He longs to do in our lives to make us like His Son Jesus—willing to become poor so others can be rich in Christ, actually generous and compassionate and loving, actually caring about the person and taking time to address them and deal with them rather than just their poverty.

There are certainly many dangers and problems with helping the poor. But perhaps the worst is just to ignore them. Our ability to ignore those with needs near us may be a better indicator of our lack of relationship with God than our ability to come to church or sing some Christian song.

            Jesus talked about the difference between spiritual sheep and goats, between those who really know God and those who just pretend to. Mt. 25:37ff—

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

This is one reason why serving the needy of our city is what we do at Mosaic.

This is one reason why we are downtown. The simple chance that you will encounter someone in our community in a state of poverty of some kind on any given day you choose to come here to worship or learn or serve is exponentially higher than it is in most American churches.

How we relate to the poor is not just “one more” thing on the “To DO” list of the Christian life. It is something central to the heart of God and necessary for the growth of every true child of God.

Whether that means talking to the poor business professional sitting next to you who is poverty-stricken relationally or emotionally or spiritually or whether that means talking to the poor downtown resident sitting next to you who may also be poverty-stricken when it comes to relationship, or living situation or emotional stability, God’s church needs downtown Spokane! That’s why Mosaic is here. That’s why we will fight to stay here even though it is more expensive, less comfortable and more challenging than just about any other place in our city. That’s why we will keep inviting you to open your eyes, your hearts, your wallets and checkbooks so that downtown becomes the best place to encounter God…for people today without Christ as well as people who have followed Jesus for 40 years.

APP: Let’s talk with God about all this for a few moments…and listen for what He might want to say.

  • What is the compassion-state of your heart presently? I’ll confess, mine tends to grow less compassionate the more I see people in need abuse the generosity of others or demonstrate attitudes of entitlement.

It took a honest conversation with a brother living on the street not long ago to convict me of my growing callousness and lack of love towards the poor of our city. God tells us in I Corinthians 13:3 that if I give everything I own to feed the poor but don’t have love for them, it’s worthless. Having God’s heart about the poor must start with our HEARTS. Talk with God a few moments about how you feel towards those poorer than you…and listen to what He might want to say to you today about heart change you need. Confess the sins of indifference and callousness towards the poor where God points that out.

  • Look over the flow of your life, say, over a month’s time. Where is the compassionate giving of time, love, friendship and resources occurring towards the poor? How are you following Christ in “becoming poor” so that others might become rich in God’s kingdom? Have a conversation with God asking Him whether you are giving too much or too little or just right. Ask Him what He wants you to do about it?
  • Has God pointed out some way in which you are not being impartial towards others based on their poverty or wealth? This cuts both ways. If you see yourself as poorer, you can harbor prejudicial attitudes and criticisms of those wealthier than you. Or if you are wealthier, you may play favorites towards those who have more while ignoring those in need. Ask God to point out anywhere in your life where you are not impartial towards either the poor or the rich.
  • Most importantly, have you come to trust in Jesus Christ who left the glory of heaven in order to give his life for you on the cross to reconcile you to God the Father?  [Invitation to believe in Jesus and make Him Lord of your life.]