Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Poverty of Wealth

[Subversive Underground]

The Poverty of Wealth
by Keith Giles

When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples in Matthew 10 he gave them some instructions which would seem odd to us today. Among other things, he gave them this command, "Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts."

One thing I've learned over time is that preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, living the life Jesus modelled for us to live, serving others and learning to love people doesn't cost anything at all. At least not in terms of money.

What it does cost you is time. It also means the possibility, and a very likely one, that you will change as a person. Counting the cost means being willing to change, and to allow God to change your heart in the way He wants. You may have to participate in the process of dying to yourself if you decide to take that step towards loving and serving others.

Some of us have to admit that we just don't care about the poor. We'd rather just write a check and be done with it. I can understand that, and I've been there before in fact. For most of my life as a Christian I was comfortable writing the checks so that someone else could step out and touch the poor and serve the lost.

Unfortunately, we are called to do more than write checks.

What frightens many of us most is the suggestion that Jesus might be asking us to invest something more than just a check.

A check is easy. I don't have to touch anyone. I don't have to look them in the eye, or smell their breath, or become entangled with their problems.

A check is still, ultimately, about me. I even get to write it off my taxes at the end of the year.

But sharing what I have, listening to someone's story, touching another person, loving them the way I would love Jesus? That's frightening. That would take a lot of faith. It would involve trusting God like I've never trusted Him before.

And that would be exactly what Jesus was talking about when He asked us to lay down our lives for one another and take up our cross to die daily to ourselves.

For the last five years or so we've been serving families at the Studio Inn in Santa Ana, California. During this time of service I've learned that the less program we have the more Jesus we can bring.

Our monthly motel service costs our little house church just over $100. That covers groceries for about 30 families, renting a bounce house and buying a box of popsicles for the kids. But again, it's not about money. In fact, there have been times over the years where we didn't have a bounce house, or treats, or free groceries. We just showed up, my wife and I and our two boys, and a few others, and we played games, ran relay races, made a craft and prayed for our friends. Those were honestly some of the more amazing times we ever had, actually.

Keeping it simple, and learning to love the people who are right in front of you, is all it takes. That doesn't cost anything. It doesn't take a small army of trained workers. All it takes is love.

One of the principles of the Kingdom is the power of weakness. Paul talks about boasting in our weakness because in our weakness the power of Christ is revealed (2 Cor 12:9). That's a huge lesson. I used to always believe that the power of Christ was revealed in my eloquence, or in my talent or skill or ability. Instead I've discovered that the more I come in weakness, relying on God's strength, the greater the outcome.

Living in Orange County, California I've come in contact with some very wealthy people. Many of them are paralyzed by their wealth. Because of their great supply of cash they are tempted to lean on that money to save their marriages, or to protect themselves from reality, or to insulate themselves from the poor. I wish for many of them that they were not so wealthy. If they didn't have all that money to make things easier for themselves, I wonder, would they lean more on Jesus to rescue them or challenge them or change them?

So, what can you bring if you leave your money belt at home? If you have a wallet full of money to give away you'll be tempted to meet physical needs without paying attention to the spiritual poverty. If your focus is on what you can do, or give, or bring, you might just miss what God wants to do.

Jesus announced his ministry on Earth by reading from Isaiah 61 saying, "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favour..."

Even though the annointing that was on Jesus involved the poor, and even though he warned us that we would be judged based on whether or not we had compassion on the poor and the outcast and the forgotten (Matt 25), we cannot miss the fact that Jesus was called to the poor in order to preach the Good News of the Kingdom to them.

We have that same calling.

I've been reminded recently that if we bring the poor free groceries and we put on a big production for them, we can't forget to bring them the Gospel of the Kingdom too.

If you can't bring them money, what can you bring the poor?

"Then Peter said, 'Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." - Acts 3:6

Maybe this is what Jesus had in mind when he sent out the twelve to preach the Good News of the Kingdom? Maybe it's why God told Gideon, "You have too many men for me to deliver my people from the Midianites"? (Judges 7:2) Because when we are strong, we have no need of God's strength. When we come bristling with our own wealth and talent and power and possibility the best we can do is the best we can do.

Perhaps if we left some of our resources at home and simply went out with nothing in our hands but worship, nothing in our hearts but faith, nothing on our lips but the Gospel of the Kingdom, we would see more of the power of God revealed in our weakness.

I'm eager to find out. Aren't you?

If you head over to my main website you'll see we've got the 3 main sessions worth of MP3's available for free download

If you haven't done so, there's still time to download my two books for free in PDF format.

The Gospel is a way of life. It's more than telling people that Jesus loves them, it's loving them because He has loved us.

A devotional book for this generation. This 205 page collection contains forty inspirational articles that address what it means to really follow Jesus, not just attend a service or agree to a set of beliefs. If you desire to know more about following Jesus and less about how to join a program or a religious organization, this is the book you've been waiting for.



Wednesday, March 19, 2008

If Your House Was The House of God

[Subversive Underground]

"If Your House Was The House of God" by Keith Giles

"I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go into the house of the Lord'"- Psalm 122:1

The year I was licensed and ordained as a pastor they handed me a key to the church building. I was barely 22 years old, newly married, with a heart full of hope about my calling to pastor God's people.

On Sunday evenings I would unlock the old building an hour early and wander through the dark corridors behind the stage, through the choir room, up through the narrow stairway to the baptistry, quietly talking with God as I moved through the silence of an empty church.

Those were sweet times for me. I remember pouring my heart out to God during those moments, dreaming of the future, wondering where my journey with God would take me, how things would turn out down the road.

Imagine my shock when someone suggested to me that God didn't actually live in that place. He didn't splash in the baptistry when no one was there. He didn't hum His favorite hymns in the darkness waiting for us to return on Sunday morning or Wednesday evening. He wasn't confined to that place as if it were some Holy container for His Glory.

That idea took me some time to process. I knew in my heart it was true. God's word even supported the concept that man could not build a house for him, nor did he ever ask for us to construct a castle for his Spirit to dwell. In fact, the only temple God has ever wanted was you and me.

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own." - 1 Cor 6:19

The more this idea permeated my mind, the more revolutionary it became to me. I realized that I could have that same intimate experience with God that I enjoyed in the empty church building on Sunday evenings in my car, or at work, or in the park, or anywhere I went. It was very liberating and empowering for me.

Since we started our house church over 2 years ago, I have had another revelation about the House of God. As we've been hosting church in our living room, our family actually lives in the very place where our church gathers to fellowship and worship.

My own house is now the House of God. I eat in this same house. My family wakes up every single day of the week in this house of worship. We laugh here, we argue here, we cry here, we play here, and we live each day in the same house where the worship and the Bible study and the singing take place every week.

It begins to change the way you think of your house. It starts to affect the way you live. It changes the way you interact with God.

God is not hidden away in a large building somewhere. I do not visit Him each week and catch up on lost time. He does not remain behind when my family leaves to go out to lunch with friends, nor does He sleep on the floor waiting for me to return for Sunday worship.

God has made His home within me. My house is the place where we worship and fellowship each week, but I carry around in my soul the very presence of the living God. Even as I sit at my desk at work, I am on Holy Ground. Even as I pump gas at the gas station, I am in the presence of the King of the Universe. Even as I sit here, typing this article on my computer, sipping my coffee, listening to Snow Patrol, I am not far from Church.

In fact, I am the Church. God has made His home in me and this is simply a foretaste of the day when I move into His house and eat at His table and we are forever, eternally, together.

“You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” - 1 Peter 2:5

What if your house was the House of God? Would it change what you watch on television? Would it affect the way you treat your spouse or your children?

Welcome to the House of God, my friends- It's you!


Last Saturday just over 100 people gathered together to share an open dialog about the Kingdom, God's heart for the poor and what it means to live an outward-focused life. It was phenomenal.

God showed up with amazing power and His presence was felt from our very first session.

I hope to collect a few testimonials from those who were with us that day and post them over at the Non-Con website ( soon.

Special thanks to our leaders who volunteered their time and talent to make this day so amazing: David Ruis, Jackie Pullinger, John Thomas, Cindy Rethmeier, Crissy Brooks, Marti Clark, Spencer Burke, Scott Laumann, Bill Burgess, Heather Wright, Paul Martin and my wife Wendy Giles who was my secret weapon. She took care of all the food and a lot of the daily logistics so that I could focus on the rest of the day and facilitate our time together. I'll never do another one of these without her help.

IT'S YOUR FUNERAL - My article about the last day of your life is now online at
Go check it out and leave a comment if you like.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008


[Subversive Underground]Presents:
Something Different
By Keith Giles

I want to ask a question, "What if there was a way of doing church that made community easier, facilitated discipleship, and inspired organic growth? Why would anyone oppose something that helped people to follow Jesus in their everyday life, set them free to discover and practice their spiritual gifting in the context of worship, and helped encourage lifestyle of evangelism and personal mission?"

As someone who has been a licensed and ordained pastor for over 18 years now, in denominational, independent and charismatic expressions of church, I've witnessed first-hand the angst and frustration at the pastoral level in the traditional church. "Why can't we get people to give more? Why don't people feel connected here? Why don't these people take the words of Jesus seriously? How can we get people to share their faith and increase community?"

Even as I've agonized over these thoughts myself, I've also heard other pastors lament in much the same way when comparing their church with the one we see in Acts. "Look at the incredible devotion these people had for one another," the pastors say. "Why don't our people give and share and love in the same way?"

After years of struggling to help put butts in the seats, inspire the frozen chosen to serve others and live out their faith in their daily life, I finally did something out of desperation- I tried the method outlined in the New Testament, and what do you know, it worked.

Our house church has been thriving now for over 2 years and I can honestly say I've not once had to preach a sermon on tithing or giving, and yet our small gathering gave thousands of dollars to the help the poor in our community last year. In fact, we're on track to double last year's amount, and I've never had to beg or plead for our members to dig deep or give more. Why is this? What's the big difference?

The simple fact is that our people can tangibly connect every dollar and penny they give with how it directly assists people in need. We keep nothing for ourselves and give all of the money we receive away to the poor. When our members connect their dollars with actual people receiving assistance they are glad to give all that they can to help others.

I take no salary from the offering. We don't even use it to buy paper plates or coffee. All of the offering, every single penny of it, is spent on the poor in our community, and that inspires people to give hilariously.

In our house church I've also seen people discover their personal mission and start to walk it out in their everyday life. One dear woman had always felt called to be a missionary to children overseas but that door never opened for her. Instead, she discovered that God had given her a mission field with her Fifth Grade class each week at a local elementary school where she teaches. We get to encourage her every week as she loves and serves these dear children God has given to her to bless.

Another woman has discovered that her art can speak to those outside the walls of the church and have a greater impact alongside works of art at local galleries. She's been liberated to take her art to the darkness and allow it to effect people who need hope and light. We get to support her art and encourage her as she encounters people in deep spiritual need who would never darken a church door.

Another man has realized a profound concern for the local homeless and has begun to spend his weekends befriending the homeless he encounters during his weekly job as a security guard. Our house church has helped him to purchase food and supplies to share with these new friends he's made. We get to encourage him and cheer him on as he struggles with how to love and help these people who are in desperate need.

Others in our house church have begun to identify their spiritual gifts and are being encouraged, many for the very first time, to utilize those gifts in the context of the weekly gathering, and to advance the Kingdom of God and make new disciples to Jesus, and live out the Gospel in their everyday life.

One thing about community is that we quickly realize that none of us is perfect. As our masks fall down we see the beauty, and the serious flaws, inside each of us. We get to learn how to forgive one another, how to love one another unconditionally, and how to extend grace to each other as we grow in Christ.

We know the early church wasn't perfect either. The New Testament makes no attempt to cover up their infidelity, pride and in-fighting. Yet it also makes no attempt to correct these flaws by changing the methodology. Instead, the Apostles encouraged the early church to love more, forgive more, serve more and be a true Family of God.

No, the house church isn't perfect. We are not more perfect people because of house church, in fact, we're probably a lot more imperfect than most, but that's part of how the power of Christ is revealed in us, as we embrace our weakness and cling to the goodness of God. (See 2 Cor 12:9)

Someone once said, "To experience something you've never experienced before you will have to do something you've never done before." The same logic applies to the modern church in America. If we hope to experience something we've never experienced before as a Body, we will have to entertain the possibility of doing something many of us have never done before.

So, if there were a way to take our traditional churches into a new place of life and hope and encourage real community and empower every person to live out their mission and utilize their gifts, why would anyone oppose this? Why would anyone be against putting these New Testament principles into practice? Are we so committed to our corporate-inspired, big business model of doing church that we cannot imagine any other way?

It's very curious to me how Jesus could inspire his disciples to start a certain kind of family-based system of worship and community and fellowship, which had never existed before, and how those disciples could promote and build and encourage a household of faith for over 300 years, only to have the entire thing thrown out in favor of a new model that effectively chokes community, stifles the spiritual gifts and encourages a retreat from the culture at large.

We could go into the history of how it happened, but I won't take the time for that now. I simply want to ask the question, "If we knew a way to fix what's wrong with the Church today and inspire community, family, mission, evangelism and discipleship, why wouldn't pastors be lining up to give it a try?" Why is it we'll try everything else under the sun except for this Jesus-inspired, Apostle-promoted, family-based, Biblical model outlined for us in the New Testament?

I know I'm a dreamer and an idealist, perhaps. But it seems to make sense to me that if we want what the early church had, we should at least be willing to attempt to do what they did in order to get it.

Even as I write this I know that the vast majority of Christians out there, and probably most of you who are reading this now, are part of a traditional church built upon some of these same principles I am calling into question.

Please know that I do not raise these questions to be divisive. My own parents attend a traditional church that they love and I have several friends who are currently pastoring traditional churches that are doing amazing things for the Kingdom of God.

My aim is not to tear down the good that God is doing within the traditional church, but at the same time I do have to ask these sorts of questions, because the answer to these sorts of questions are necessary to help all of us understand who we are in Christ and how the whole Body fits together in God's Kingdom.

God is at work in every expression of His Church and no matter what form or model we employ Gods Kingdom is advanced, peoples lives are transformed and the Gospel is preached. I fully acknowledge and celebrate this fact.

However, my struggle lies in finding the best way to communicate the joy of what I've discovered as part of a house church, and affirming that God loves and is at work in the entire Body of Christ, worldwide.

Please extend to me a little grace on this issue, my friends. I know that whenever I talk about the freedom and the excitement I've experienced in the house church, there are some who can only hear it as an attack against those who are not part of the house church movement. This is not my intent and I'm honestly still learning how best to share what good I've seen over the last few years without insulting everyone else.

What I hope to do is to allow the testimony of God's wisdom to be released like the aroma of warm bread from the oven and tantalize each of us to imagine what being part of the Family of God could be like, if we try something many of us have never tried before.

"If there was a way to help facilitate discipleship and community and mission within the Body of Christ, and if that way were clearly outlined in the New Testament and if that same method was proven over a period of 300 years, why would anyone oppose this?"


The Non-Con is only days away now!
For those of you who didn't make the registration deadline, and/or can't wait until this Saturday to hear Jackie Pullinger, my friend Bob Moffat posted a whole host of great sermons from Jackie online.


Now available at Best Buy, Amazon and fine bookstores everywhere.

My great friend, Kent Williamson, has completed his film, Rebellion of Thought which is an amazing discussion starter for people who want to know more about why the modern church is broken and how our post-modern society views our faith and message.

The documentary release "Rebellion of Thought: Post-Modernism, The Church and the Struggle For Authentic Faith" explores the challenges of living a Biblically-oriented Christian life within the framework of an increasingly complex and confusing postmodern culture. ~ Nathan Southern, (All Movie Guide)


Well-worth your time and attention. My friends John and Lisa Wahrmund have a few songs on the soundtrack album too, along with J.J. Plasencio (formerly of Sixpence and Plumb). Check it out.


Monday, March 03, 2008

Part 5- How To Start A Ministry To The Poor

by Keith Giles

This is the final installment in our series on how you can start a ministry to the poor in your community.

If you have any questions, comments or ideas youd like to share please feel free to email them to me directly at "elysiansky" at "hotmail" dot com.


Ministry to the classically homeless is much more challenging than you might think.

Our family has centered mainly on ministry to families who live in motels or to individuals who find themselves suddenly in danger of becoming homeless, or to the elderly.

Ministry to those who have lived on the streets for long periods of time, those I call "Classically Homeless", can be difficult. Here's some of why that is and what can be done to provide assistance.

Many of those who live in a state of long-term homelessness are there because of drugs, alcohol or mental illness issues.

For those who are homeless because of addiction and substance abuse issues, you should keep in mind that they will do whatever it takes to get money from you in order to get their drug of choice. Don't be surprised or offended if they lie to you. Don't be afraid to tell them you know they are lying (if you suspect it to be so). Honesty can go a long way and it helps them to know you're not easily fooled.

Usually the best course of action to take is to help them with the condition in place that they seek out help for their addiction. So, if you buy them something to eat or if you put them in a hotel, etc. you let them know that next time your helping them will depend on whether or not they have followed through with getting off the streets and addressing their greater need to escape addiction.

Many of those who are living on the streets for long periods of time are dealing with mental health issues. Local mental health hospitals have the unfortunate habit of releasing residents who are not dangerous to themselves or to others due to over-crowding and a lack of funding. This puts many homeless on the streets who are not taking their medications and are suffering (not just due to hunger but also the pain of their illness) without any hope of getting better.

Communication with them can be difficult, if not impossible. Some cannot carry on a coherent conversation while others can appear lucid at first and then drift off into delusional behavior and display wild mood swings and unexpected changes due to their illness.

In these cases I usually refer them, if possible, to a local mental wellness organization or to a non-profit that is more adept at treating people like this since it's very far outside my area of expertise.

Of course, not all of those who are homeless are mentally ill or struggling with addictions. Some of them have emotional issues and others have simply fallen deeper into the pit of poverty due to a loss of employment or other unexpected event.

Ministry to the classically homeless is much more difficult to do as a family due to the erratic and sometimes frightening behavior which can be encountered. Our family has focused mainly on ministry to the elderly and to families living in motels or in low-income housing since its something we can do with our children. However, there is plenty of great ministry to be done with those who are living in long-term homelessness. This will usually involve a more specialized skill-set and typically requires a person have lots of patience and a high level of discernment.


I've only been out about four times to the streets here in Orange County to minister to women caught in prostitution. Most of what I've learned is based on research and several crushing episodes of utter, empty defeat and failure.

This ministry is easily the most challenging and "outside my comfort zone". It means entering a dark, dangerous world where you are an outsider and the level of commitment required is off the charts.

First, a little bit of background about the issue.

Most girls who are on the streets will either get off and back into a normal life in the first three months or it will be another ten years before they can escape this lifestyle. Why? Because the work is so repugnant and degrading, at first, that if they're ever going to escape it has to be in those first few months. Otherwise, they get trapped into this lifestyle through fear of their pimp and/or through dependence on the drugs their pimp supplies them with.

What keeps most girls on the streets is the fear of being abused or killed by their pimp, and/or their need to keep an expensive drug habit going. Their pimps usually get them hooked on drugs as quickly as they can in order to control them. They know that no other lifestyle would afford their girls the kind of money they need to keep the drugs flowing, so the girls are essentially trapped into this life of prostitution.

Another difficult and impossible situation is where you have forced prostitution through organized crime syndicates. Many girls are here from Russia, the Ukraine, Romania, Thailand, Cambodia, and other impoverished nations. Many were tricked into coming here and are kept here by the threat of harm to their families back in their home country. They cannot leave, even if they desperately want to escape, because to leave would mean the murder of their mother, father, siblings, etc.

It's very shocking to realize that human slavery is alive and well in the United States of America. Just about a year ago the Orange County Police Department broke up the largest human trafficking/forced prostitution ring in the history of this region. I remember it because it was just weeks before the Freedom Day on March 25th at Vanguard where hundreds gathered to protest slavery and bring attention to this very real problem.

America is the number one market for human sexual slavery. Anaheim, the home of Disneyland, is one of the largest markets for human trafficking in the Nation.

You can find out more information about this online at

You'll encounter one of four different kinds of girls who work on the streets.

1)Street level- Normally these are homeless girls who have no pimp and work prostitution for the food and for drugs. It's purely survival and quick cash.
2)Weekenders- These girls come and work to support their children or save money for college or other reasons. They are healthy and generally wear clean, attractive clothing.
3)Circuit Girls- These girls work a circuit throughout California, Nevada, Florida, etc. They wear exaggerated clothing (very Hollywood-esque). These look the most like obvious prostitutes and are the easiest to spot.
4)Transvestite- A man who dresses like a woman to turn tricks. Some have had surgery and take hormones to round off the illusion. You think it would be easy to tell the difference. You would be wrong.


*Stay Up Late
Due to the nature of this ministry, to find the girls you need to be where they are, and that means on the streets between 12am and 4am. You're guaranteed to loose sleep over this ministry.

*Mixed Teams
If you go out you need to always stay in mixed teams of guys and girls. It's a bad idea for guys to go out alone, since they might be arrested for soliciting, and it's not safe for girls to go out alone either. Mixed groups of at least four people work best.

*Pray, Pray, Pray
Prayer is crucial since you are entering into the Enemy's camp. This is where the Kingdom of Darkness clashes with the Kingdom of God. Expect a lot of spiritual attack at home and during the ministry time.

*Bless Them
You mainly want to get to know these girls. As with other ministries weve discussed thus far, consistency is the key. Build a relationship. Buy them breakfast if they'll let you. Listen to their stories. Ask them what they need and try to meet practical needs.

*Gift Bags
One local ministry to prostitutes brings gift bags to the girls with make-up supplies, gift cards to shops and food stores, clothing stores, etc. It brings down their guard and allows you a chance to smile, bless them, find out their names and ask if you can pray for them.

*The Pimps
Believe it or not, getting to know these guys can be a significant part of the process. One ministry I know of actually spends a lot of time trying to help these guys change their lives and turn to Christ. If they do, the girls usually follow and the operation is shut down because the girls, and their pimp, have surrendered to Christ and are seeking to live a new life.

Sadly, 98% of the girls who are on the streets now will stay there, and die there. This means that out of every 100 girls you reach out to, only 2 of them will get off the streets and stay off.

For those who do get off the streets, the process means getting off the streets and then relapsing over and over again for a few years before finally, eventually, getting off the streets for life.

Of course, these statistics don't tell the whole story. Some girls get off and stay off in one shot, some leave after several years, others after only a few months. But you should know what you're getting into before you commit to such a challenging ministry.

If you encounter girls who are under 18 you should refer them to "Children of the Night" (if you have one in your area) or even the local police department. These are minors who need to be rescued from this lifestyle.

The challenge I've run into is the lack of resources for girls who are under 18, don't have a Driver's License, or a SS card. These are usually girls who are here illegally or runaways.

If the girl is over 18 you can send them to Teen Challenge and/or another drug and alcohol treatment center where their addictions can be addressed and they can receive spiritual guidance and emotional healing. Sadly, most non-profit groups will not accept a girl who is under 18. Go figure.

What is really needed to minister to these girls is a long list of resources:
*Trained counselors
*Free shelter
*Addiction treatment
*Job Training
*Free Child Care
*Healthcare access (for health checkups, STD's, etc.)

As I said before, the most challenging and overwhelming ministry I've ever known is ministry to prostitutes. Not for the faint of heart.

I know this series doesn't even come close to scratching the surface of this topic of serving the poor and the homeless and people in need, but after a five week series I think it's time to move on to other topics at the [Subversive Underground].

I do hope you will email me directly if you have further questions or response to this series of articles. Many of you have already asked me for permission to reprint them and use in your Church or ministry efforts. That's what these are for. I do appreciate knowing about where these are being used and how, but otherwise they're meant to help you to serve others more effectively.