Yesterday I had an opportunity to spend 3 hours with a local pastor and get an insight into some of the difficult work some of our Pastors do that often goes unnoticed.
Years earlier this pastor faced a very tough personal economic situation where he and his family weren’t sure how they were going to keep a roof over their heads, giving him insight into some of the economic challenges many families face. Well God worked things out for him and his family and today he pastors a church in the Green Bay area. But the experience gave him empathy for homeless people in our community.
So he began visiting people in a local homeless shelter, offering the hope of Jesus Christ and helping them to get their lives straight, find jobs and a place to live. This pastor also owns a small local business and actually took a chance on some of these homeless people, offering them jobs in his business so they could earn a living and get their lives back on track. Some of these situations worked out for both parties, others did not. Well yesterday I had a chance to meet several of the people he and his church have reached out to and see what God was doing.
I met a couple who were living together when this Pastor first met them. He told them that if they wanted a good relationship they should do the right thing in God’s eyes and get married. They did and yesterday they shared their testimony about what God has done for them and the importance of their church fellowship in their lives. They serve as greeters in the church and both are working, living in a very modest place. But the love and hope of Jesus Christ was evident in them as they shared how Jesus Christ and the local church is making an impact in their lives.
I met another lady who is raising her 5 children as a single parent. Things are tight and life has many challenges, but again I heard her testimony of how belonging to a fellowship of Christians is giving her hope and helping her get through life day by day.
In between visits with these precious people who God is working in, we drove around and talked about a lot of things of God and the enormous challenges we face as a Christian community in sharing the gospel with all people and helping them find hope. Many of these people face enormous challenges you and I cannot imagine. My Pastor friend said something that really touched my heart in a deep way. he said “Mike people like you and I will often tell people ‘Just read the Word of God and go deep to find the answers for deep theological questions. Well that doesn’t work well when you are dealing with people who have never even learned to read to begin with. They need to see the gospel being lived out and they need to see that Christians care.”
We spent three hours together but the time just flew by. We talked about our understanding of theological issues and interpretations of scriptures but we mainly talked about how the church was established by Jesus Christ not just for the middle class Christian—but for the rich and the poor; the educated and the uneducated; and for people who live the good life and those who are barely keeping their head above water. People who would be out on the street if they missed work one day because of illness. As my pastor friend dropped me back off at my air conditioned ministry base at Q90 FM, he thanked me for taking time from my busy schedule to see some of the things churches are doing that often go unnoticed. I thanked him for caring enough about me to remind me that while the church does face serious challenges—and pastors may not get all things right all the time—that there is another side to looking at and critiquing the church and the men who serve her as pastors.
Contending for and living the Christian faith is about more than just critiquing one another’s interpretation of the scriptures; it’s about more than worrying about what books are being read by Christians or what our views are on predestination, the timing of the rapture or eloquently explaining Paul’s treatise in Romans 7 on continuing sin in his life. I’m sure if I had asked any of the people I met yesterday about their thoughts on these Biblical issues they would have stared at me like I was from another planet. All they know right now is that when their life seemed destined to one of jumping from homeless shelter to life back on the streets in an unending pattern of despair, someone cared enough for them to actually meet them and share the hope of Jesus Christ with them. Cared enough to invite them to church—and actually pick them up every Sunday morning because most of them can’t afford a car or perhaps don’t even own a driver’s license. And a pastor who cares enough to just hop in his car once a week and visit each of them to see how they are doing.
There are some serious issues facing the church in these trying days—and we will continue to discuss them on air. But let us never overlook the really important and challenging work many of our Pastors and lay Christians do that often go unnoticed—caring for the least of God’s children. The Church is about more than just digging into the scriptures and parsing words—it is about Christians who love God and love others. And when we stand before God for final judgment, I doubt that He will give out gold stars for how well we memorized scripture; I doubt He will be impressed over the fact that a Pastor had 1,000 people attend church weekly; and I know God will not be impressed because someone did a daily Christian Radio Talk Show.
But I think there is certainly the possibility that when we stand before Him, Jesus might just quote something He said in Matthew Chapter 25:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”