Every church can touch the poor
J. Don George is pastor of Calvary Church in Irving, Texas, a congregation of 3,500 that has long maintained a small-church feel despite its size. Compassion ministries are at the forefront of Calvary’s outreach to the larger Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. Pastor George spoke recently with Scott Harrup, associate editor.
PE: What are some ways Calvary Church’s families are reaching beyond the walls of the church sanctuary?
GEORGE: One of the first things God spoke to my heart when I came to this city 32 years ago was to reach the disadvantaged. We’ve always reached out through radio and television, but beyond that we pursue many other strategies. We fill 1,000 “love baskets” with food to give away the Saturday before Christmas, and take our Christmas program into the community with giveaways. Our bus ministry has brought in enough kids to Sunday School to fill Texas Stadium several times. Our Soul Patrol ministry goes out each Thursday evening, often taking a mobile sound stage into shopping centers and neighborhoods. Several Sunday nights a year we go to an underprivileged community in the city. I preach the gospel and we give away bicycles, sports equipment, toys, groceries, gasoline vouchers and grocery vouchers. We have monthly food drives. During a recent Easter season we had an “Egg Jam,” a big rally for kids at a local high school football stadium, with about 10,000 kids attending. Our backpack program gets school supplies and packs for about 2,000 kids before the school year begins. We’re all about reaching out, because God never called us to come into the church and stay there. He said to go into the highways and byways. “Go” means “get out.”
PE: You recently hosted a Convoy of Hope outreach.
GEORGE: Yes. We partnered with 64 organizations. The Irving Police Department estimated the crowd at more than 20,000. We jammed every street coming off the freeway. The Dallas radio stations were warning people about the traffic jams. We counted 10,885 people who came through our tents. We had 723 volunteers. We received 775 signed cards of people who came to know Jesus as their Savior, and we’re in the middle of follow-up. The ripple effect is going to be enormous.
PE: Why is it important to meet both physical and spiritual needs?
GEORGE: Jesus taught it. That’s the only qualifier we need. He said to preach the gospel to the poor. He sent us to do what He did. But beyond preaching the gospel verbally, Christ taught us to meet physical needs. You can preach the gospel by going to someone who is poor and giving a cup of cold water in the name of the Lord. We must feed the poor and clothe the naked and supply homes for the homeless.
PE: What are some first steps churches can take, regardless of their financial resources, to help their communities address poverty and hunger?
GEORGE: Calvary was not always a large church. We started with 50 people and we started right from the beginning to serve the poor. God told me to knock on 500 doors every week. He told me to go to the poorest part of town and look for needs and ways to serve. You start small. A small church can have a block party. Identify families on one block that they can bless. A church can have a clothing drive. We’ve all got clothes we could pull out of our closets. Every church, I don’t care how small or large it is, should have a food pantry. When a small church ministers to the poor, the law of the harvest is absolutely infallible. God will send provision for a church that has the vision. When a small church lets a community know that it’s there to do more than just have church inside the building, the people will rise to the occasion and begin to get involved with that church.
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