Tag Archives: poverty

Glimpses of Francis of Assisi, from Mark Galli


Saint Francis of assisi in his tomb

The following are brief excerpts and quotations I marked while reading Mark Galli’s Francis of Assisi and His World (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002). Galli, managing editor of Christianity Today and former managing editor of Christian History, did his homework well, and this little book, like Chesterton’s biography of Francis, is full of insights. Galli does tend to find “legalism” in medieval monasticism, and has cautioned evangelicals about their “romance of the cloister.” But his understanding of the sacrament of penance (see below) is more nuanced than that of most Protestants. Continue reading

St Francis of Assisi: Redefining discipleship


I am fascinated by Francis.

Francis of Assisi (1181/2 – 1226) was, I think, a man in many ways well ahead of his time. Being human, he was not without his oddities and peccadilloes. But he drank deeply from the sorts of spiritual wells that have more recently animated the charismatic movement.

He took monasticism to its next logical step in living what Weber would later call a “worldly asceticism”: his model of Imitatio Christi understood as a vigorous and peripatetic service to the world transformed medieval religious life. The Franciscans and Dominicans both lived it out for centuries after his death, though often in ways that would have made poor Francis’s hair curl.

He recognized with laser clarity the toxicity of wealth and the heroic measures necessary to save oneself from pride.

What a saint was Francis! Still today I am challenged every time I read of his life.

All of this I was beginning to discover in 1994, at age 31, as I moved on from both my Christian tutelage in the charismatic movement and my secular vocation in corporate communications to the full-time study of church history Continue reading

Resources for Radical Living: The book and course, version 2.0–the revised case studies


This is the third in a series of posts on the Resources for Radical Living course(s) and book by Mark Van Steenwyk and me (Chris Armstrong). The first post presented the original version of the course. The second presented the revised structure of the course and book.

This third post presents the revised list of case studies.

Even more important, this post asks you, dear readers, to comment on these case studies and suggest any primary or secondary readings that you think will help Mark and me as we work on these new case studies and our students as they plunge into this challenging area of “radical Christian living.” Continue reading

Poverty and racism: What would Charles Sheldon, “Mr. WWJD,” do?


In researching the man who originated the phrase “What would Jesus do” for Patron Saints for Postmoderns, I discovered something exciting. This novelist, whose In His Steps immortalized the idea of asking oneself “What would Jesus do?” before making any major decision, was no starry-eyed dreamer who lived only in his writing. Rather, he was one of the most active men of his day in the cause of social justice. Here’s what minister-novelist Charles Sheldon did when, as the brand new pastor of a Topeka, Kansas church, he was suddenly confronted with the problems of urban poverty and racism. [The following is an excerpt from the chapter on Sheldon in Patron Saints.]

Crossing Class Lines

From the first, Sheldon did well for his new church. The upper room over the butcher was often full, and soon the group was building a big stone edifice. When the new building opened, on June 23, 1889, Sheldon preached a defining sermon to what would be his lifelong flock. We can imagine their mix of pride and discomfort—“what had they gotten themselves into?”—as the young pastor announced that he would always preach “a Christ for the common people. A Christ who belongs to the rich and to the poor, the ignorant and the learned, the old and the young, the good and the bad. A Christ who knows no sect or age, whose religion does not consist alone in cushioned seats, and comfortable surroundings, or culture, or fine singing, or respectable orders of Sunday services, but a Christ who bids us all recognize the Brotherhood of the race, who bids throw open this room to all.” Little did those unsuspecting congregants know what concrete shapes their activist pastor’s dreams would assume in the years to come. Continue reading

24 reasons to be “bountiful” to the poor


The following is a brief summary and some reflections on the second of August Hermann Francke’s (1663 – 1727) Three Practical Discourses. I did this while in Dr. Richard Lovelace’s class on the Pietist renewal, in 1994 at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. The edition I was looking at was (a copy of?) an edition printed in 1716; translated into English from the High-Dutch:

[If you want to jump right to “doing something about it,” then you might be interested in Tyler Blanski’s music project for the homeless]

2. OF CHARITY TO THE POOR

Twenty Four Motives to a faithful Discharge of the Duty of Bounty to the Poor

Mark 8:1ff

‘In those days, the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his Disciples unto him, and says unto them:  I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat, etc.’

1.  The unspeakable and incomprehensible love and mercy of God towards mankind.

‘There is no doubt, but whosoever does duly ponder this love with himself, and revolve it again and again in his mind, but his heart will be excited thereby to bestow a like love on his poor and indigent neighbour.’ (26) Continue reading

Did you know men slept on the bridges?


This piece, from Christian History & Biography Issue 82 (the Phoebe Palmer/Holiness Movement issue) did a number on me as I was preparing it. The Salvation Army rocks.

Eyewitness
Did you know men slept on the bridges?
William Booth

When did the plight of the homeless first pierce your heart? Bramwell Booth, son of the beloved Salvation Army founder William Booth, remembers this moment in his father’s life—and how the senior Booth responded:

One morning, away back in the eighties, I was an early caller at his house in Clapton. Here I found him in his dressing-room, completing his toilet with ferocious energy. The hair-brushes which he held in either hand were being wielded with quite eloquent vigour upon a mane that was more refractory than usual, and his braces were flying like the wings of Pegasus. No good-morning-how-do-you-do here!

“Bramwell!” he cried, when he caught sight of me, “did you know that men slept out all night on the bridges?” Continue reading