Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Answers for Empty Churches

Church these days seems rather traditional- im not just talking about the hymns or the cookie-cutter outreach-

It seems like we like to give people titles
- like 'homeless' 'old' 'high school age' 'gang member' and then stuff them into the right Bible study class room. Or, like some sort of disease, attempt to medicate them with prescription-like remedies- food grab bags, old clothing and overly cheesy youth outreach tracts.

We need change. We need real honesty- not more honest-sounding 'think orange' overly systemic theology that looks 'cool' and 'hip' and 'modern'.

As usual, I think a couple of things- 

one notion was formed by an awesome book by Craig Gross, called The Gutter 

In the book's beginning, Craig relates a story about how as a youth pastor in California, he took a bunch of high schoolers out to an infamously homeless region of town... there they were basically told by the homeless that they didn't want the youth group's homemade sack lunches- the woman standing in front of wide-eyed church youth, was barefoot and needed shoes... why in the world would the homeless there listen to the well-meaning youth group, much less attend their church, if they didn't actually honestly help the barefooted woman and others just like her if they failed gloriously to simply meet her where she was. Church is about truly helping people with the only true help there is: the Love of Jesus- not just because traditionally when we think of the homeless (or any other sort of outreach, for that matter) we just think vaguely of sack lunches and old clothes... 

The other insight comes from one of Donald Miller's recent blog posts ( ) called Stop Being Motivated By Guilt. There, Miller basically says that while we could just walk down to the latest shelter and volunteer, mainly because we feel we must or ought to, we make it into some sort of beleaguered badge of pious honor- such a hard thing that we bravely persevered through... only so we can show it off later and continue the cycle- 
 Rather, we should discover and grow our own unique gifts and serve accordingly- and actually do things we like and enjoy (and are actually good at)... 

So, I think while it's great to reach out to homeless, i just don't think we should be doing it because it's tradition- first of all, if we do- it needs to be because we actually have a genuine passion for the homeless people in general, and "Ministry". If we do reach out genuinely, we need to reach people relevantly, answering real needs- not just daily hand-outs. 

At the church I attend in Albuquerque, Crestview Baptist ( baptist ) we live on the edge of what's called 'the war-zone' the southern region of town renowned for its' gang violence- we have many homeless come through during the week- and most of the church welcomes them in like any other person... simple... (let's take away the titles and just treat people as people)- also, last week we were able to baptize one who has been coming off and on for about a year- it wasn't because we fed him on a regular basis or even found him temporary work when we could- it was because we loved him as he was, where he was- forgetting what his clothes and demeanor bespoke about him, judging rather on the quality of his character than just the mere look of him- not merely categorizing him into the 'help needed' basket. 

The Church, and Christians, cannot just open their doors and expect people to file in anymore- neither can we just be happy with the 'adults go to this classroom, youth to this one, infants and screaming children to this one' mentality- we are finding that if we're honest, reaching people now means relating to them as people and actually reaching their specific needs...

Like what you read? Want it live at your Church, Christian Camp or Youth Group? - please let Ryan know- I'd love to! Please email to Thanks and God bless -Ryan

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