I Have Failed

Yesterday was Good Friday.  When I was a kid, I used to always wonder why they called it “Good”.   After all, it’s a story about betrayal, pain, and death.  Now I understand that what Jesus went through was good for us.  It was VERY good for us.  His suffering and sacrifice paid the price for our sins and gave us the path to fellowship with God.

Every year around Good Friday, I reflect on His suffering and ask myself where I have failed Him.  He did so much for me.  Where have I let Him down?  This year, that reflection has turned my thoughts and my shame to one glaring failure.

Just a few years after giving my life to Jesus, God called me to serve homeless and poor people. [I hate using the terms “the homeless” or “the poor.”  They are people, not labels].  I teach youth how to be the hands, feet and loving arms of Jesus for “the least of these.”  Over the last 26+ years I have been humbled by the ways God has used me to transform the lives of others.

There have been successes, both with the youth I have trained and the people they serve.   Some of our youth grew up to become missionaries, pastors and social workers.  Others haveCrucifix on a Wall continued their ministries with poor people into adulthood.

Scores of those we have served have also seen their lives transformed.  I have witnessed miracles of deliverance from addictions, opportunities for housing, and jobs that seemed to come from out of the blue.  It has been an honor to play some part in these transformations.  All of that is good.  But it is not good enough.

I have failed Jesus in a lot of ways, but as I ponder my shortcomings, one failure stands out above the rest.  I blew my chance to share the Good News of Christ with people who desperately need Him; not just once but over and over again.

I take no comfort in the fact that this failure is widespread among American Christians.  I feel sick that someone may be eternally separated from God because I failed to say something.

I am convinced that Satan is perfectly happy for me to help homeless and poor people all day long.  He is perfectly happy for us Christians to fight culture wars and care for our environment.  He loves to see us do those things as long as we don’t tell people about Jesus.

I pray that my failure ends here.  I pray that it ends today.  Job #1 for every follower of Christ is to preach the Good News and make disciples.  I will no longer hide under the cowardly veil of tolerance but will search out divine appointments to share the greatest story the world has known.  I know the Gospel is offensive to many, so I will offend.

Jesus sacrificed Himself for a reason.  He did not fail us.  I ask you to join me in resolving not to fail Him.

God’s grace to you,

Steve Jennings, Executive Director

An Outrageous Challenge to Christians – What If?

I read a portion of a letter dated March 1, 1775 from John Wesley that struck a nerve with me.  Here is what it said:

As to the public affairs, I wish you to be like minded with me. I am of neither side and yet of both… Private Christians are excused, exempted, privileged to take no part in civil troubles. We love and pray for all with a sincere and impartial love. Faults there may be on both sides but such as neither you nor I can remedy; therefore, let us and all our children give ourselves unto prayer and so stand still and see the salvation of God.

Our country is in strife, although it has seen worse strife.  Remember that time about 150 years ago when a half million of us died at each other’s hands?  Or that time about 240 years ago when we took up arms against each other?

Wesley wrote his letter during a time of great strife and made a bold request to the Christians of the age. Most did not heed his counsel, but the proposition got me to thinking about what would happen if we did that now.

What if we as Christians took a break from fighting battles on issues to focus on prayer?

What if we as Christians sincerely prayed for those who oppose us, not asking God to destroy them or even see our way, but to somehow discover Jesus?

What if we as Christians held our tongues for just a season and gave God a chance to make His voice heard above the din of disagreement?

What if we as Christians could put aside our human tendency to “get even” and offer that undeserved merit we call grace?

What if we as Christians really got to know our opponents to find those things on which we can agree and build a dialog from there?

What if we as Christians started a national “Offer Grace Day” where we made a concerted effort to offer kindness to our enemies? Jesus said something about that, didn’t He?

I know this is extreme. And I have no idea how the world would respond if we did this en masse or even if they would notice, but God would notice. We would notice, and perhaps, just perhaps, we might be changed.

God’s grace to you,

Steve Jennings, Executive Director


30 Years – Part 4 – Where the Rubber Meets the Road

This is the last in a series of self-indulgent blogs celebrating the 30th Anniversary of my new life in Christ. Check out Teens Opposing Poverty’s Blog for the rest of the story. 

February brought with it the formal filing of divorce papers.  Ever since my “warm honey” experience in November, I had been free of my angst over the situation.  I thought nothing else would bother me about it.

I was wrong.

As I signed the divorce papers, I was overwhelmed with a sense that I was a failure.  Instead of signing my name, I thought I should have written “LOSER.” My feelings took me by surprise and threw me into another funk. It wasn’t the mind-numbing emotional pain I had felt before, but it wore me down nonetheless.

Hoping to change my attitude, I dug into my research with gusto. By Groundhog Day, I had concluded that Christianity, the faith of my childhood, made the most sense both intellectually and in the way it fit with my experiences over the previous three months.

Once I embraced following Jesus on an intellectual level, it was up to the Holy Spirit for my faith to travel that short, but obstacle strewn, path to my heart.

I can’t tell you the date or even what week it was, just that it was February. I remember that it was a clear, dry day and I was cleaning stalls in the barn of my parents’ horse farm. I had scooped up a fork full of horse manure and stood there staring at it with the words “failure” and “loser” filling my mind. I looked at the manure and thought, “This is your life. This is what you are on your own.”

I continued to stare at the manure when, all of a sudden, memories of sitting with my grandfather watching Billy Graham Crusades flooded my thoughts.  I could see the crowds shuffling down the aisle toward the platform.  I remembered the prayer of salvation.

It was time.

“Jesus, without You my life has turned to this. What scares me is that I know I can go lower, and I don’t want that to happen. I know I’m a mess. I know I’m a screw-up. I know I’m a sinner, but You want me despite all of that.  I guess that’s what I see in you that’s so great. I’m yours. You paid a huge price for me. Forgive me for turning away from you and all the other sins I have committed. I can’t begin to count them.  Do what You will with me. You lead. I’ll follow.”

I dumped the manure into the wheelbarrow.  To be honest, I didn’t feel that much different. I just knew I had done the right thing; the best thing. The wild adventures of faith that would follow over the next thirty years and the ones still ahead continue to convince me that I chose the best path.

God’s grace to you,

Steve Jennings, Executive Director



An Exercise in Thanksgiving

In 25 years of ministry with homeless people, one of the greatest lessons I have learned is gratitude for the little things.  I thought I would share with you what I’m thankful for first thing in the morning. But instead of just being thankful, I thought it might be a more fulfilling exercise to pray for others who don’t share my blessings.

 I’m thankful I woke up this morning in a warm house.

  • I pray for the families of those who recently lost a loved one.
  • I pray for those who have to work long hours or who are going through trials and got no sleep.
  • I pray for those who have no home and for those who can’t afford to heat their homes.


I’m thankful for my wife, who is sleeping beside me, and my daughter, still asleep in her room.

  • I pray for people who are lonely.


I’m thankful I got out of bed.

  • I pray for those who sleep on the streets and have no bed
  • I pray for those who are bedridden. Lord grant them peace and strength.


I’m thankful for going to the bathroom (no, I’m not kidding)

  • I pray for those who can’t walk to their bathrooms or anywhere.
  • I pray for those who call a stream or a hole in the ground their bathroom.
  • I pray for those who suffer from infirmities that take away life’s most basic functions.


 I’m thankful for hot coffee and a tall glass of clean water.

  • I pray for those who have little in this world to give them comfort or pleasure.
  • I pray for those who must drink contaminated water and suffer the diseases that it gives them.


 I’m thankful for the Bible I get to read every day.

  • I pray for those who have never read this love letter from God
  • I pray for those who have read the Bible and have rejected its wonderful message.
  • I pray for those who earnestly desire a Bible but can’t get one.


I’m thankful for my relationship with Jesus and the opportunity to spend time with Him each day.

  • I pray for those who have never heard the Good News.
  • I pray for missionaries and evangelists who spread the Gospel around the world.
  • I pray for those who have turned their backs on the most beautiful relationship a human can experience.
  • I pray for people who do not have the freedom to worship God.


I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit, who leads me, guides me and strengthens me.

  • I pray for those who are wandering aimlessly through life.  Lord, grant them purpose.
  • I pray for people who try to live their lives without following the Lord’s leading.


 I’m thankful for my brief workout in the morning.

  • I pray for those who have lost the use of their limbs and who suffer from other conditions that prevent them from doing even the most basic things in life.


 I’m thankful for eggs and fruit for breakfast.

  • I pray for people who might go through this day with no food.


That covers the first couple of hours of my day.  I think the full day would be a rather lengthy blog, but you get the idea.

Take time to be thankful for the little things and say a prayer for those who can’t share your blessings.

God’s grace to you,

Steve Jennings, Executive Director


Fly By Evangelism

I watched the small group of young adults huddle in the corner of McPherson Square, just two blocks from the White House.  They each had a small paper bag filled with something.  After some excited discussion, they prayed and started walking toward groups of homeless people scattered throughout the park.  They reached into their bags, handed everyone something and said a couple of words.  Within 5 minutes they had completed their task and left the park.


One by one, most of the homeless men in the park either dropped their new treasure on the ground or tossed it into a trash can.  The “treasure” was a gospel tract.  It was the “This Was Your Life” tract.  I looked around the park to see if anybody was reading the tract they were given.  Not a single person was reading it.


At that moment, I was embarrassed for Jesus.  Have we learned nothing from His example?  Look at each encounters He had with people; the woman at the well, the 10 lepers, the rich, young ruler, the blind beggar, the lame man by the pool.  He invested His time in each of these people and met them at their point of need.  By meeting them at their point of need most of them believed in Him.  OK, so the rich young ruler walked away.  It just goes to show you that some peoples’ hearts are hardened to the point where they can’t change.  Accept it and move on.


Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) we don’t have the ability to peer into the peoples’ souls.  So it may take us a little longer than our Lord to figure out a person’s real needs.  But when we meet those needs, we earn the right to share the Gospel in power.


During Advent, we read with nostalgia the words from John’s Gospel: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  The Word of God must still become flesh to poor and hurting people before they can turn their troubles, fears, hearts and lives to the One who, better than any of us, can turn their lives around.  God’s Word becomes flesh through us.  Do you want to win the hearts of poor people for Christ?  You show them Christ first.  Then you can fill in the blanks with words.


God’s grace to you,


Steve Jennings