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Monday, January 17, 2011

Minding the Poor: Part III

Let’s just take Clements Baptist Church (not picking on Clements…that is just the church I fellowship with, it could easily be “your-church-here”). How positioned is Clements Baptist Church to ministering to an influx of the poor and homeless into our semi-rural but expanding community?

Rather than talk about what we could do, let us focus on the reality of things for a moment. I know for a fact that many individuals have prejudices against the poor and have accepted stereotypes that are often given to poor people. Their more Nietzchean than Christian response to those who are in desperate need undermines the efforts of those who want to be more Christ-like in our response to those needs. This tends to be an unconscious Southern, politically Conservative attitude when dealing with people who may seem to be "lazy" or "seeking handouts" for a variety of reasons, but it sounds more like survival of the fittest than love your neighbor as yourself. I don't think the majority feel this way (or at least they don't let prejudice dictate response), and this won’t necessarily prevent those who are willing from ministering in a Christ-like manner but it certainly does not help.

Let’s also think about the issue of safety and security; how many people are going to want to continue to go to Clements if it were suddenly overrun by a stream of poor or homeless souls who may or not be tripped out on drugs, may or may not be schizophrenic, or may or not be people with questionable pasts? How much will we push past ourselves to reach these people? To what lengths would we be willing to go in order to be Christ to these people?

How many would seek to love them and how many would just run from their stench?

The stench of,

Vomit.

Beer.

Cigarettes (or marijuana).

Urine.

Feces.

Sweat.

The level of comfort would surely drop and we would be faced with an interesting and yet needful predicament: we would have to be Jesus to these folks who just landed in our midst.

But being a missional church is not about waiting for them to come to us or simply inviting them to a service; being a missional church is about sitting with them where they are and acknowledging that though they are rotten sinners like we are, they are made in the beautiful image of God and that the love of God is available to them now, regardless of whether or not they convert.

Could the poor and the homeless be a part of the life of Clements Baptist Church? Well, how many fellowship activities do we do that costs the one thing they don’t have, money? It is easy for a few people to spot some folks here and there, but what happens if a mass of humanity cannot pay for even our “cheap” or inexpensive programs, fellowships, conferences, etc? I just went an excellent retreat with our MPact college ministry (eventually I will become an adult, I promise) and it was a really awesome time. But that retreat costs $50 dollars a person. I understand why it costs that much and to do what we did, we have to pay it. However, what if we are inundated with a college ministry (or any ministry) of people who are barely making ends meet? Do we just not try to include them in the more awesome moments of fellowship because they cannot pay? Again, it is not criticism of what is, it is a warning about what is coming; it is not a matter of if the poor will arrive, it is a matter of when. So knowing this, do the poor get left out of the life of the church because they are poor? Would Jesus Christ approve of this?

If he opened the door to kingdom life and deep fellowship to the poor, why would we unintentionally shut it in their faces?

If we operate the way we do, we have to have people who can afford to pay up; it is simple economics. My point is merely that maybe we need to think a little bit more about how we operate in relation to opening our fellowship to the masses of destitute humanity.

I have heard people wonder in awe of how churches in other countries manage to do so much and the answer is simple: they position themselves under the direction of God to most effectively minister to those around them. There may not be a lot of homeless people in Athens, right now. But there are plenty of poor people who will not darken the door of our churches for a myriad of reasons…why are we not trying to reach them on their terms? We need to ask ourselves if we have designed our respective church to unintentionally (hopefully this would your church’s case; it would be that way at Clements) exclude the poor. If so, then we need to begin to position ourselves better.

Again, this is not a bash of Clements Baptist Church…put your church under the same lens of scrutiny. What it is though, is a wake-up call to all suburban churches to realize that we are not positioned to reach out to the masses of poor that will soon be coming to our doors. We need to start opening the doors of the kingdom to the poor.

How do we do this?

To Be Continued

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2 Comments:

At January 17, 2011 at 6:19 PM , Blogger Willie Mac said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At January 17, 2011 at 6:20 PM , Blogger Willie Mac said...

I want to clarify that don't think we are doing things wrong currently, especially at my local church...we don't have this problem yet. No one is being neglected and I don't think anyone is being shutout. However, as the poor become more and more present (or as we increase our outreach to the poor in our midst) we need to be ready to make them just as much as a part of the fellowship of Jesus Christ as anyone else. I will discuss some of these ideas in the next post.

 

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