Captains Andy and Abby Miller connect the dots between faith and work. Whether working with their homeless ministry or community leaders, the Miller’s intertwine their church and social ministry through hospitality. Together, they see hospitality as a way to make room for others, especially the marginalized, and love strangers.
“Social service is the wrong way to think of our ministry,” Andy said. “When we’re reaching out to the homeless we’re doing it because of the hospitality we’ve received from Christ.”
The Millers are lead pastors at The Church on the Loaf, which is located on Sugarloaf Parkway in Georgia. Their congregation, or corps, as it is called in The Salvation Army, is one of the largest in USA. They currently have 250 in their congregation. Although small compared to mega-churches, they are committed to working with community leaders and wealthy influencers to leverage their connection to the Army with people in need.
Whether in the company of celebrities or in a poor housing complex, the people he meets call him “Captain Andy.” He shares how within 24 hours, he once chatted with Emmitt Smith and also with children and families in a low-income housing complex. Both introduced him to friends saying, “This is the Captain.” For him, that experience was a summary of the opportunities that God has given him. Yet, both call him to use his influence for ministry.
“All the things that I approach, I do so through the lens of how I understand Scripture and God’s story and how I get to join him in that story,” Andy said.
As stated in the mission statement of the Salvation Army, The Church on the Loaf is committed “to preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs.” One of the ways they do that is through the church’s homeless ministry called Home Sweet Home.
Collectively, the Salvation Army houses 125,000 homeless people each night through its ministry in 127 countries. But the unique thing about the Church on the Loaf’s program is that the homeless aren’t placed in shelters. Instead, they place individuals and families into regular apartments to provide space for change. While participating in Home Sweet Home, the church provides job and financial training through Financial Peace University to adults, while the children participate in church programs. At the end of the year, the family has the opportunity to take over the apartment lease.
“This system restores their personhood and dignity,” Andy said. “We’re not treating them as objects. They’re people in their own home, and we allow them to provide for their family.”
At the time of this article, Home Sweet Home houses 20 families and 68 individuals. Several are homeless children. The Millers and their church don’t think of their ministry as social service, but as a way to reflect the hospitality they’ve received from Christ.
“We do it in the Wesleyan vision, with the whole Bible for the whole world,” Andy said. “That includes people sleeping in cars or the woods or who have been trafficked. The whole Bible is for the whole world.”
Andrew has recently released a book, based on his dissertation at Perkins School of Theology. Holistic Hospitality presents a holistic vision of hospitality, based on biblical and historical values within a practical context. The genesis for this project came when he took Dr. Chirstine Pohl’s class at Asbury Seminary. He hopes to bring all the constituencies of the corps together to refresh the Army’s ministry and lead it into the future.
“I have this slogan: ‘Forward to the Fight,’” Andy said. “I see the fight as the work of the church. We’re fighting against sin and suffering that’s corrupting the world. As a Salvationist I want every email I send, sermon I preach, letter I send, tweet and Facebook message I post, meeting I lead, advisory organization I facilitate, and moment I spend to be focused on ‘the fight.’”
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