Monday, April 20, 2009

The Homeless

We had a guest speaker at our church yesterday named Roy Marshall and he runs a local ministry providing food, money, and other needs as he's able to the homeless and needy. Our church has supported him, even as recently as the high school class I teach donating 250 food items to his stock. To give a little backstory about Roy, he also owns a place called The Gym and he splits his time between running the Gym and helping others. He's a great Christian man and he's had a big influence on my life. Almost 5 years ago he spoke at my church and God used his message to change the course of my life. It was a defining moment in my history and that message set me on the path I am on currently. Yesterday was a repeat performance in that God once again used him in a mighty way to affect me and many other people.

Roy's main point is this - why are there millions of dollars worth of buildings and resources in this county (also known as churches) that are not being used but a few hours a week and that the homeless are continually turned away from? Why won't we let them stay in our churches? Why do we send them elsewhere? And no, we do not need to build a homeless shelter - that's just shoving it off on someone else. That's what we're so good at. We send money to organizations, we fund missionaries, we donate food - but we do all this while constantly avoiding ever talking to, or looking at, or touching those around us who are poor and needy. WE never really do anything, but ignore and hope someone else deals with it.

To insert a real story into this - I was a deacon in my church for 3 years recently. We have a fund that people donate money to and it is our job to hear requests for help and give out money and do things to help people. When the year started, the chairman asked who would hold on to the checkbook? Silence. Long silence. NO ONE volunteered. Everyone had excuses. We all donate money to the fund, we all accepted positions as deacons, but no one actually wanted to hold the checkbook and deal with the situations. This went on for MONTHS. It was ridiculous. And I was one of them. I had my own excuses but I can't honestly say I had any right to say no, I just did, and so did everyone else. Pathetic.

Back to Roy's sermon - he reminded us that the poor will always be among us. Why? Because that is the path God has chosen for them to walk, in order to continually give Christians opportunities to live out what they say they believe. So that we can begin to see Jesus in those people. Jesus himself said, whatever you did to the least of these, you have done to Me. Throughout Jesus' life He was despised and rejected - and He still is today - because the least of these in our society represent Jesus to us and we despise, reject and ignore them. Why are we even going to church? If we refuse week after week, month after month to see these people (they're all around us but we don't see them) and reach out to them - why are we wasting our time in church? How could we hear the Gospel over and over and do nothing? James 2 reminds us that those who hear the Word and do nothing are deceiving themselves.

In closing, he said, so what are you going to do? Don't let this message slip away like so many others and the memory fades and old habits set back in. DO SOMETHING - NOW. So, what is my church going to do? I don't know yet, but I have talked to some folks and this has gripped us. I am planning to send out an all-church e-mail with my ideas for short and long-term planning and action to get the ball rolling. Ultimately, I do not hold a position in the church so it will need to be picked up by those who do, but we're going to get things going.

What are you doing to help the homeless and needy who surround you? Are you going to keep refusing to see them and offer them anything other than directions to somewhere else they can get help? If your church doesn't have this one figured out, there needs to be an immediate change in your priorities. If you wonder if there's any validity to this, just examine everything Jesus ever said and see if it lines up.

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