How Do I Care for the Poor and Make Disciples? - Radical

How Do I Care for the Poor and Make Disciples?

How are Christians called to effectively care for the poor as a means of discipleship? What are right and wrong methods to care for the poor? In this video, David Platt explains how Christians can care for the poor and make disciples through the effective use of their resources. Throughout Scripture, Christians are instructed to use their resources effectively for gospel ministry, particularly their finances. However, in using finances (and other means) for ministry purposes, a Christian’s generosity should be aligned with the Great Commission, giving to organizations, charities, and funds that are particularly committed to meeting tangible needs while sharing the gospel. As Christians give, they should be generous, recognizing the tremendous cost Christ paid for their sins.

  1. Using Resources Well
  2. Commitment to the Great Commission
  3. Generosity as a Reflection of the Gospel

David, you talk a lot about meeting urgent spiritual and physical needs. And so I’m thinking here specifically of urgent physical needs. Poverty, you talk a lot in Radical and even in your preaching about Christians’ responsibility of meeting the needs of the poor. So my question is… which and all those things are in scripture, but can we lose our way in terms of our primary focus of making disciples? Do those two things contradict one another? How do you put those two together?

How Do I Care for the Poor and Make Disciples?

That’s a great question. This is obviously huge for us, particularly in this culture. I wrote a forward recently for a new edition of When Helping Hurts, which is a book, by the way, that I would highly recommend when it comes to helping the poor, serving the poor in responsible ways. But the authors there, Corbett and Fikkert both talk about and they say it, “We’re some of the richest people to ever walk planet Earth. We are the rich. We have much that we’ve been given.” And so how do we use these resources in a world of urgent spiritual and physical need… and we use that term.

I use that term a good bit just because our urgent spiritual need, billions of people on a road that leads to an eternal hell, a couple of billion of them not even having access to the gospel right now. And physical need, whether it’s a billion people living in desperate poverty, and more on top of that, just living with very little.

Okay, we can’t read this book and believe this book and live out this book without feeling attention there between all that we have been entrusted with by God’s grace, resources, and needs of the world. Now, I’m not saying there’s simple solutions to, oh, you just give this money here, then you’ll solve all the world’s hunger problem like that I’m not trying to be simplistic in any way, but I am saying we’ve got to look at our use of possessions as followers of Christ and not in a way that in any way detracts from the Great Commission.

I know historically in the church that there is a tendency whenever you begin to talk about the poor and social justice or social ministry, that there is a pulling away from the gospel and a pulling away from the Great Commission. I want to be zealous in my own heart and the church that I pastor to guard against that because I know I’d be a fool to think there’s not a tendency toward that.

The Gospel Drives our Actions

But I am convinced though that it’s the gospel that’s what’s driving concern and compassion for the poor in the first place. 2 Corinthians 8-9 is obviously a perfect example of that. This is why we give generously and not in an obligatory manner, we give cheerfully because we’re motivated to do that by the sacrifice of Christ who became poor for our sake, that we might become rich. So it’s the gospel that drives this.

And then when it comes to the Great Commission, if we’re going to make disciples of all nations, of all ethnae, of the people groups in the world, if we’re going to do that, and there’s a billion people in the world who are in desperate poverty and more on top of that, that are in extreme poverty in different ways, if we’re actually obeying Christ’s command to make disciples of all the nations, we’re going to come in contact with a lot of people who are impoverished. If we’re making disciples in Northern India, it’s just a reality. We’re going to come in contact with poverty.

So what do we do there? Do we just ignore that and just preach the gospel? Well, no, we preach the gospel. But if I’m preaching the gospel, I think about villages that I’ve been in India where people are literally starving and they don’t have water. And I’m there and I want to be a part of making disciples among all these people groups and in areas where we’ve worked in and partners we’ve worked with. As we’re sharing the gospel, it’s going to make sense for us to think through some good, healthy, sustainable ways alongside local churches in India to help people who are starving, have food and help people who have no water, have water. That just makes sense.

Address Physical and Spiritual Needs

If we’re serious about making disciples there, then physical things are going to come up, physical needs are going to come up. And as the church, we’re going to respond to those physical needs in the same way we do in the church I pastor here, but even in greater ways in places where there’s such a lack.

And so all that to say, I hope that even when I’m talking about concern for the poor, what I’ve written and it’s number one driven by the gospel, and two, just, it coincides clearly with the Great Commission

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.


That means that the people with the most urgent spiritual and physical needs on the planet are receiving the least amount of support. Together we can change that!