Saturday, January 30, 2010

T-shirt and Conference Christianity

Today a group of friends and I went around Lakeland asking the community about their needs and how the Church has met or has failed to meet these needs. The idea for this “survey” was birthed out of a few individuals who really desire to see the Church unite and meet needs. A church can only do some much, but how much more can the Church do! One of the thoughts I had is that churches are often so stuck inside a building and don’t even know the needs that exist just beyond their concrete walls, in their community. Our hope was to do the “dirty work” and find these needs and then present them at a later date.

We talked to all kinds of people: homeless, single mothers doing laundry, some people celebrating for an upcoming wedding, and then decided to go inside a church: we figured surely God’s people would have something to say about this topic. Instead what we found was a lot of people running around from meeting to meeting with no time for us. We walked into what happened to be a “See Jesus” conference on this particular church’s “Jesus Weekend.”  We asked one man if he would have a few minutes to answer a couple questions for us concerning community and the Church and he declined and asked us not to “harass anyone else.” He did however have a few minutes to tell us about the conference and proudly show us his hunter green tee shirt with bright yellow writing: “See Jesus” it said.

I walked out of the church and took a gasp of air. Is this what the Church has become…a place where we are consumed with our meetings, conferences, Bible studies, luncheons, and tee shirts? We kept walking downtown and came to a homeless lady lying in the middle of the road. She was drunk and obviously suffering from some mental disabilities. We gathered around her with some other homeless people trying to coax her out of the street. Cars sped past and she yelled over and over: “I want to die!” We called an ambulance and they took her away, hopefully to a clearer, more hopeful state of mind. I wonder if the people wearing the “See Jesus” shirts would have taken a few minutes out of their busy schedules to help this woman. Would they have even noticed her?

I guess my prayer would be that the churches would become the Church and love people like Jesus did, making their life about more than a filled up schedule. I would also ask that God grant me the grace and patience and love toward the churches that someday may take off their Jesus shirts and begin to walk and live as he did.



RC said...

Wow! This is such a powerful post! The response at the church was poignant. That kind of response was the overall kind of response Anna and I got from the church in regard to our daughter with severe autism and others like her (she's almost 24 now!). Jennica, thank you so much for caring, investing action, and sharing these kinds of insights and experiences. It's very moving.

Paul Corrigan said...

I agree with Rickey, this is powerfully moving. Thank you for sharing, and thank you for doing the work on the streets in order to have something to share!

Bill said...

In reading your post I am drawn up facing myself with two powerful forces at work within me.

First is the challenge to step out and relate to those outside of the "church" like you are. I continue to be watchful for ways to be in community (routine, unplanned interactions) with those both in and out of the church.

Second, for me it is so easy to fall into the trap of criticising those in the church. Similarly I often have compassion for the poor but not for the rich who need compassion just as much, just a different way of having it expressed. Those in the church who are complacent with their programs and committees are just as blind/ruined as those outside laying in the street wishing to be dead. In so many ways I am just like both. I continually pray for my blinders to be removed so I can see my own prejudices and failures. Too often my failures are just accidental slips but others failures are gross sins.

All in all through your post I am brought to a place of recognizing that I need to learn, practice and grow in humility.

Thank you for the challenging perspective.

RC said...

Jennica,this story hurts but try not to be discourarged. Thanks for your part in making important connections and for not getting "stuck inside a building." Blessing, Anna

Rehoboth said...

Not every church member in every church reacts that way. And, I hear you, Bill. It's easy to point a finger and forget that there are then three pointing at me. I am learning, slowly, that I am only responsible for one person's response to any situation (and it's a hard one to remember): me, and my response.

I like the motto of the Daughters of the King:

For His Sake
I am but one, but I am one.
I cannot do everything; but I can do something.
What I can do, I ought to do.
What I ought to do, by the grace of God I will do.
Lord, what will you have me do?

Mother Teresa was only one.

Joy said...

Wow, Jennica. What an impacting experience. Just reading your post touched me deeply; I can't imagine how profoundly it was to actually live this out, seeing the green Jesus shirts juxtaposed with the woman lying in the street longing to die. My God! People are literally crying out in the streets while we run around our safe stained-glass sanctuaries.

Bill, I too struggle with not becoming critical of the church. I read this post and think how tragic those tshirt-clad Christians are, but then I know I've worn that shirt. I've been that blinded Christian...heck, I still am.

Thank you, Jennica, for such a challenging post - on so many dimensions.


living stones said...

I really do appreciate everyone's feedback and acknowledge the areas of my heart that need work- I do need to love and have patience with both those in and out of the church. Please pray for me concerning this.

Joy- it is so good to hear from you! I hope all is well in Korea! I miss you a lot but am so thankful we have this great device that can make up for some of the distance!


Bill said...

Oh God, It is delightful to see you so powerfully working in Jennica's life. To see her watching for and recognizing your movements both within and outside the church.

May each of us be attentive to your presence and quiet, invitational voice through this week.


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