Every year as I would have to fill out my renewal for ministerial licensing I always cringed. I stared at the blanks that I was supposed to fill in. The form asked me to answer “How many people were saved under your ministry?” “How many were sanctified?” If I couldn’t answer I had to explain myself in the section below. I hated this task and every year I would put the number one in the blank because technically I had saved someone, but the real truth was hidden behind that answer. In reality I wanted to answer the truth and freak out the district licensing board.
In my mind I played out how the scene might go. “We need some clarification please. You put down that 30 people were saved in your church. But you technically aren’t assigned or serving in full-time ministry at a church. How can that be?” I would answer, “Well, 30 in a three month span. In reality it is probably much higher. It is about a 70% success rate I’m working with.” I imagined that questioning faces would meet my smarmy answer. “Yes, you see almost every day people are saved. Either the place I work at the Rescue Mission or through other organizations that Caridad helps with lives are saved from addiction, loneliness and homelessness as they are re-integrated into society and begin living their lives that are now restored. I see people clean up; re-unite with family, get into programs or housing and even some begin to get integrated back into the work force. “
This was about as far as that little scenario ever played out. I never had the nerve to go that far with my answers. In fact because of my obscure work with Caridad the church said that they couldn’t license me to be a minister any longer. It was a mutual discussion and we parted on good terms and many local churches continue to support the work of Caridad.
I share this story not to make you, the reader, angry. This story is shared because I think all too often those outside the walls of the church don’t understand those inside and look for any reason to lump Christians in as judgmental jerks. Coming from an insider, I’m a 3rd generation church kid I have to say, you are partially right. There are some jerks in the church, but there are a whole lot of amazing people who do and give without any fanfare or even thanks. If you are reading this and have been mistreated by someone in the church I want to say, “I’m sorry.”
The church sometimes gets her signals crossed and has a history filled with reformations and revivals. It’s a messy place because it’s run by people. Augustine said, “The church is a whore, but she’s our mother.” We are not to leave her but work with her.
Caridad has been a wonderful organization that has taken shape with the help of those inside the church and those who will probably never set foot in one. Sometimes those inside the church get caught up in numbers and want to fill pews, when those outside are simply just thirsty or need a place to go to the bathroom. The church sees letting the world use its resources of buildings or facilities as potential to grown in numbers, so much so that sometimes we miss the basic need of the person. Church friends I would challenge you to get away from that. Try being a friend or listening to someone so they have a shoulder to lean on. Not so they will talk and then you can tell them the Gospel story. The Gospel story has been around for over 2000 years and God has used a lot of other people and ways to get his message out and will continue to do so. Perhaps you need to pray to just allow God to be God and work, and that he would open your heart to see need.
If you aren’t in the church and are more comfortable on your favorite bar stool than in a pew, it’s okay. God has called you too to help those around you. Will you please listen or be a shoulder to lean on for someone who needs you instead of being quiet enough to listen to them so you can explain how awful you day was. Perhaps you need to pray that God will be God in this world and that he will work, and pray that he would open your heart to see need.
I leave you with this story. It is one of my most vivid Seminary memories. Dr. P.M. Bassett a great church historian and had tons of PHD’s spoke even more languages and I’m pretty sure of it could do almost anything. I went in his office one day upset at people in my local congregation. Our conversation went like this.
“How can you be in the church when the people are jerks, judgmental and theologically wrong?” I asked with annoyance in my tone.
“Excuse me Miss, were you saved by grace?” He asked calmly then pushing his hands together.
“Yes.” I said with apprehension.
“Did you deserve that grace that was given to you?” He said not batting an eye.
“No.” I answered and could hear my voice getting softer.
“Well then who are you to judge them if you received grace that was undeserved? You know something else those same people love God just as much as you.” He lowered his head looking at me and smiled. I don’t remember if I had a response, I’m pretty sure I didn’t that day. I just slunk out of his office tail between my legs and never forgot that conversation.
How can I continue on in the church when I have been mistreated by the people in it time and time again? Because I love her so much and those people deserve just as much grace as I do.
To my Christian and non-Christian friends, homelessness is a problem. It is big and it is growing. It is a broken people problem. We need to agree to put aside our differences and work together to help the existing organizations, help create new structures where needed and even educate the public on homelessness. The funny thing about homeless is that they are people too just like us, not perfect.
Some of you aren’t comfortable going to the streets where homeless live. That is fine, we need you. You can help by donating time, resources, or even educating others by sharing on your social media sites. Please take a minute and check out some great partners that Caridad has or even write to us on how you can get involved www.caridadcharity.org