Phil Miglioratti @ The Reimagine.Network Interviewed Merlin Gonzales of Faith, Hope, and Love CommUNITY

“One day, our nation will observe Faith, Hope and Love Day.”

PHIL>>> Merlin, unpack the "DNA" of your ministry name:

MERLIN >>> reply at each bullet below; why are they vital to your vision? Thank you for reminding me of the earlier vision to impact the entire country to observe Faith Hope and Love Day. Two Governors of the State of Indiana proclaimed for 4 years in a row (former Gov. Mitch Daniels and former Gov. Mike Pence) Faith Hope and Love Week. It was during this time that I had the vision to reach out to Washington DC for a Presidential proclamation to observe Faith Hope and Love Day every Last Sunday in July. Please pray with us that this would materialize.
  • Faith >>> that sustains us during what seemed like impossible situations
  • Hope >>> that renews our soul, mind, and body
  • Love >>> that conquers fear
  • CommUNITY >>> that helps one another

"The missional food pantry is a unique way to reach out to the public both in the physical and spiritual realms. Missional is intentional."

PHIL>>> Many congregations have food pantries but you have reimagined the model... What makes your version distinct? ...It seems you have asked different questions beyond,"How do we give food to hungry people?'

MERLIN >>> The concept of the Missional Food Pantry (MFP) was the continuation of "Mission Trip in Your Own Backyard." After several years of doing annual week-long missions joined by dozens of churches, I thought there must be something more than event-driven missions. I mentioned to the Lord, "I want to turn this annual missions into a sustainable mission." The Lord said, "I have already started it for you." Then I remembered giving food to the hungry on street corners of Indianapolis since 2006. This food giveaway became big when the Lord opened up the doors to partner with businesses and, other community-based organizations to use their parking lots as staging sites. Then, I started partnering with churches to use their building for food pantries. Faith Hope and Love (FHL) would train the local congregation about how to serve and pray and how to share the Gospel with the recipients.  FHL would provide food while the church provides the volunteers and to reach out in their own neighborhoods. In 2009, one of the churches asked me to train their congregation how to transform their current food pantry into the model that I showed them. At MFP, the focus is on people, not food. Although we give food and lots of them, the pantry volunteers are trained to establish trust with the recipients so they can uncover the deeper needs such job training, education, financial literacy, other available government benefits, etc. to help them beyond bags of food. Here's the parable that I have written and produced - The River of Hunger. Then, I wrote a sequel - The River of Hunger II and lastly the River of Hope

At MFP, we maximize the point of contact by helping people beyond food. We believe that discipleship is needed for any effective outreach, whether event-driven or sustainable outreaches. The mission of the church is to share the Gospel and the commission is to disciple people. Even in Acts 6, the Apostles recognized not to neglect the ministry to the Word of God and prayers. If Jesus wanted to alleviate hunger in His hometown, He would just have established a permanent feeding ministry but the Bible recorded that He only fed the multitudes 2 times because the hearts of the recipients were after the wrong reasons. 

"A missional food pantry connects with the greater community, such as businesses, other pantries and churches, the government, and all the sectors of society." 

PHIL>>> How does teaming beyond one congregation, with service-focused entities across the community, increase the missional dimension of providing food to those in need?

MERLIN >>> FHL teaches building missional communities (in the immediate surroundings of a congregation) thereby offering opportunities to the entire neighborhood to be part of the solution. The pantry becomes a food pantry for the community and by the community. During the graduation of an MFP (after 8 to 12 weeks of training), we invite all the sectors of society for a grand celebration. This is also a way for the local pantry to cast the vision to the community and offer them opportunities to get involved. For example, the Mayor of a city is invited to welcome the new pantry and this attracts the media. With the Press Conference and media (TV, radio, newspaper) coverage, we are able to convey the message to the general public - the needs, the resources needed, and the opportunities to come together as one community to help one another.

"FHL seeks to break down walls of separation between churches, races, social status, government and education to unite people to show the compassion we were all created to give one another."
PHIL>>> Amen...but how does coordinating food distribution "break down walls"?

MERLIN >>> FHL focuses on the common denominator - helping the poor. The government knows they need the church to mobilize volunteers that they do not have, the businesses are provided an opportunity to establish trust and goodwill in the community through volunteerism and donations, the school system normally has service days for the students to give back and the media wants to be the first to broadcast good things that are happening in the community. God had created a system to break down the walls not just in the church but also in the entire community.

"Changing the culture is beyond preaching/teaching.'
PHIL>>> How can church leaders/pastors begin to reimagine community ministry in their context? What are the questions that birth revitalization?

MERLIN >>> As Christians, God had given us Kingdom solutions and resources to the world's challenges and problems. We are supposed to be the Salt of the earth and to bring the reality of heaven here on earth. Seventy percent of all the food pantries in the US are run or are in a church building. However, through the influence of the government and the world, most pantries are just handing out food to the people instead of influencing society with Kingdom values and practices. Many of us have been indoctrinated by the world's system instead of us influencing the world. Imagine turning these food distributions into mission hubs where the culture of the Kingdom is implemented. Our acts of kindness will emphasize the Kingdom culture and then we share with the recipients that there is someone who could answer all the questions they have and satisfy their life's purpose. We have a saying at FHL, "It's not about food; it's about people." Ask, "If Jesus is present at our food pantries, how would He wants us to operate? What would our food pantries look like if we apply the principles of the Beatitudes? If Jesus wanted to alleviate hunger, why did He feed just the 2 groups (the feeding of the 5000 and the 4000)? When we go to heaven, Jesus might commend us in feeding the poor but He might also ask, "Did you introduce the pantry recipients to Me?" Ask yourself, "What if I treat the pantry recipients the way I treat others during Sunday service."

"Beyond handing our bags of food..."
PHIL>>> What is your challenge to pastors/church leaders who are busy with many church-focused programs?

MERLIN >>> Beyond handing out food to the poor are people who have baggage they carry (like all of us.) In the busyness of creating a system to process the food giveaway quicker, many church-based pantries miss a lot of opportunities including sharing the ultimate transformation - eternal life with Jesus. Many of them offer prayers but many of them do not share the Good News of Jesus Christ. This is major. Many times pantries spend more time and money purchasing food that spoils. "Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” - John 6:27 (NIV) In this "servant evangelism", everyone gets to play. We all know that satan would keep us busy doing minor things but are good things. Satan might say we are doing good which is correct, but giving food to the hungry won't get them to heaven. In the process of giving food to the hungry, we must also offer them food that will last for eternity. We must spend more time feeding people spiritually.

"Cities are being transformed through the collective efforts of ordinary people who live in the real world."
PHIL>>> Merlin, write a prayer we can pray inviting the Holy Spirit to help us reimagine ministry in our community...

MERLIN >>> God I pray that You use us to influence our world not just during Sunday but especially when we are outside of the church building. Lord, I ask that you convict us to share the major things at any of our outreaches. Give us Your perspective as we serve others, to serve them not just with our hands but with our hearts also. Transform our minds according to the values of the Kingdom that we become conduits of God's love and blessings. Lord, You said that we can do even greater things than these. I pray that we live out your promises even in the midsts of the busyness of serving others. I pray Lord that you keep our consciousness of the Kingdom as we do outreaches, that it is not abour performance or how much food we give away to the multitudes but how many people were transformed because they got the privilege to interact us. I pray Lord that you literraly use our hands as you would use Yours, to give more hope to people, to not be afraiad to have relationships with the "least of these" and to call out that best of everyone that we meet. King Jesus, use us mightily to expand Your Kingdom here on earth through the practical and spiritual application of the Beatitudes. Lord, thank you for the privilege and the trust that You have in us. We do not deserve nor have the capacity to serve others but You empowered us to be Your representatives here on earth. Thank you Lord for Your examples in doing life here on earth, in serving others and in receivng the power and the authority You have given us to see heaven here on earth. In Jesus Name, Amen.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ~There are countless resources that may help you in doing all kinds of outreaches posted in The FHL Blog is and my personal website is . The FHL FaceBook and my educational FaceBook contains helpful materials in the practical application of Kingdom principles. I have released my first book in 2012, "The Kingdom in Our Midst" and the accompanying Experiential Workbook called, " Living in God's Dominion Here on Earth"; many churches are using these books as their Bible Study and to learn how to conceptualize meaningful and successful outreaches. Merlin Gonzales can be reach via or Ofice Mobile # at 463-210-4612
Merlin Gonzales
1100 W. 42nd St. Ste #365 Indianapolis, IN 46208
317-572-5793 | 463-210-4612


~~~>NOTE: Scroll for - - 

BEYOND HANDING OUT BAGS OF FOOD: Lately, people have been asking me, “What is a missional food pantry.” ...and a collaboratoi. strategy from Merlin Gonzales

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    Lately, people have been asking me, “What is a missional food pantry.”

    In the late ’60s, someone started to give food to those in need. This became a movement of people helping out by providing additional food and by volunteering. Soon, this became a food pantry. Then, other groups of people came to start their own charitable food distribution.

    As more groups of concerned citizens grew, some of them thought of starting a food bank to help the individual food pantries to give food to those in need. And the culture of charitable food distribution took life on its own.

    The birth of our current system

    Food banks popped up around the country as more food pantries were established to help the poor. As this kindness movement grew, those in need also grew in numbers. The years went by and so the need for more food banks and food pantries became obvious.

    There are now dozens of food banks and thousands of food pantries around the country. According to Feeding America, there are now 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries nationwide.

    Jesus said in John 12:8a, “You will always have the poor among you…“, and we need to help them. And, helping the poor does not stop by handing out bags of groceries. But the kindness culture that our society created many years ago became the norm.

    Jesus was “missional”

    It is interesting that the Bible recorded only two occasions when Jesus fed the multitudes, the 5000 and the 4000. He probably received a lot of criticism when He did not continue to feed the poor. Jesus revealed the hearts of people when the multitude came to him afterward.

    Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

    John 6:26-27 (NIV)

    Missional Food Pantry

    Beyond handing out bags of food, are people like us… broken and carrying lots of baggage. It is not to say that everyone who goes to a pantry is less of a person than others. All of us have our own issues. At the missional food pantry, we follow that model of Jesus, especially in the application of the Beatitudes. Missional Food Pantry (MFP) is a counter-culture model of alleviating hunger beyond food. It is to come alongside others and to understand their deeper needs such as additional education, addiction counseling, financial literacy, or an encounter with God.

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    Being missional involves the intentionality of reaching out to others like Jesus… the more important things in living a more sustainable life and the life everlasting. At MFP, we put a lot of time into training the leaders and volunteers so they can understand why food pantries exist – food is only secondary to people.




    Training (discipleship) is of utmost importance in establishing a MFP; Jesus spent 3 years in teaching his first disciples. Missional is having a laser-type focus to help one another, to engage, and involve the greater community, and to educate not only those who serve but also those who are being served.


    Changing the culture

    Jesus prayed to God that the culture of heaven become the norm here on earth – “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus encountered countless oppositions as He applied the Kingdom’s principles wherever He went. Interestingly, the religious people and the teachers of the law were the first ones to criticize Him. As Christians, Jesus commissioned us to continue His work here on earth.

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    Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

    Changing the culture is beyond preaching/teaching, it also involves doing. It is hard work but we should all be relentless so we can experience our piece of heaven here on earth. It is beyond imagining what it would look like, but to live it out not just in serving at food pantries but in every minute of our lives.



    Merlin Gonzales
    1100 W. 42nd St. Ste #365 Indianapolis, IN 46208
    317-572-5793 | 463-210-4612

    "Missional pantires seem a bit odd to pin ones hopes to for church growth....."

    MY REPLY -

    I agree...but my intent is for readers to apply the core thinking to their context. My calling is not to tell people "what to think" (or what programs to employ) but "to think" about the unexamined and often hidden reasons for our forms and formats. Hold to truthful traditions. Dump outdated ones. Apply Romans 12:2 on a corporate, not merely individual, basis.

  • Update from Merlin Gonzales . . .

    We now have possible 7 churches that would lead worship and prayer starting on Friday 3/24 at 6 pm until Saturday 3/25 at 6 pm which will be held at Iglesia Ebenezer located at 1460 S. Belmont Ave. Below are questions that you may have:
    • What is the PURPOSE?
      • Worship the Lord for who He is - Psalm 29:2
      • Thank the Lord for the FHL Ministry [18 years] and the creation of the FHL Missional Food Pantry Network (MFP) [2015] for what He had done and will be doing through the Unity in the Body of Christ - Ephesians 4:3
      • Pray for our city's revival and reformation - Psalm 85:6-7
    • What is the AGENDA? - 1 Corinthians 14:40
      • Each church will lead a segment or 2 with its worship band and prayer (the duration of each segment will be announced soon)
        • The schedule for each church segment will be announced soon after I have confirmation from the churches
      • Worship will be longer than prayer so we can soak more in His Presence (unless the Lord changes the format)
    • What if you (the Pastor or leader) cannot attend? - James 5:15-17
      • Make an announcement (flyer will be emailed to everyone soon) this Sunday and the next to invite your congregation for this 24-hr worship prayer on the 24th. This time would be an opportunity for your congregation to meet their brothers and sisters and Christ who are in the same mission - feeding the spiritual and physical through MFP.
      • Invite your fellow Pastors and fellow leaders to attend this Unity gathering to soak in His presence
      • Pray for us - Nehemiah 1:5-11
    • What if a church that is not currently in partnership with FHL wants to lead the worship?
      • Due to limited time, we will give priority to those who have been, currently, and will be partnering with the FHL but they are welcome to attend anytime during the gathering
    • What if my church's main language is not English? - Acts 2:5-11
      • Worship and pray in your own native language
    Free-will offerings will be received to bless the host church and FHL.
    God bless you,
    Brother Merlin Gonzales
    Bible Gateway passage: Psalm 29:2 - New International Version
    Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.
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