Let’s address “liabilities” once and for all. This is the “
good excuse” that happily and quietly kept the first Lubbock’s Parade of Homeless out in the streets.
I will not name the church that used this excuse. Any of those I spoke with who might read here will recognize the story. If that is you, SHAME ON YOU! But I spare you the public humiliation in hopes that you will change. Your sin can be forgiven. And this reflection on it might help prompt it.
You can see some of the highlights from that event here, if you want. In fact, it was a successful event on many fronts anyway. The one major failure was that the church refused to invite us in because of “liabilities.” Despite the fact that Fat Beggars previously approached two leaders who both said, “That is a really good idea,” they also said we needed to take it up with higher authorities. The final authority said, “No. It’s a good idea, but no… because of liabilities.”
So the Fat Beggars, about 12 in number, stayed the night out at a nearby park. I recall feeling deeply disappointed by that as we lay down by the basketball court. One of the street prophets, “Agent Zero” (he wanted to be called) lay his head down a couple of feet away from me and said, “Welcome to my place tonight.”
“Welcome,” he said. The very word the church had failed to use because instead they used the word “liabilities.”
After an hour of lying on the ground, illegally in the park after dark, the clouds began spitting rain on us. At that point, I insisted that we move to the church building about 3 blocks away and gather under the shelter it would provide on the porch. So, in the dark of night, running from the rain, the Fat Beggars School of Prophets assembled at the doorstep of the church we planned to attend the next morning.
What we did not know at the time was that the house across the street had been purchased by the church and was being remodeled into an outreach office. The man who was doing the work was also sleeping there at night like a night watchman. And despite the fact that our party was respectfully quiet in the night as we moved to the church building, he saw us and came to investigate.
Fortunately I knew most of the leadership at that church by name. When the night watchman/carpenter came asking questions, I quickly eased his fears about this night-mob crashing the church house steps. And I really think that he was filling that position as a poor man with no better work options. (Most repair men I know don’t sleep at their job site, but this guy did.) And once he established our purpose, he used the word the church had failed to use, “Welcome.” He invited us to sleep in the house he was remodeling.
I am posting here to ask you to think more carefully about that word “liabilities.” Church leadership chose to act with a lock on the door because they uttered the word “liabilities.” The homeless man in the park and the poor carpenter in the night both used the word “welcome” instead.
I have kids who belong to the youth group that meets in the same church that said “liabilities.” My kids describe “lock-ins” where kids run wild through the church building in games of hide-n-seek, wrestling and horse-play, and other games. These things occur in the same building that locked us out because of “liabilities.”
You see, the church has fine property and various assets. If they allowed homeless people to sleep and pray in there through the night, and if someone got hurt, then the church would be liable. The church’s nice things are the “liabilities” that constrain her from doing the very things Jesus calls her to do.
I am wondering: On that great day of Judgment that Jesus describes in Matthew 25:31-46, when the King declares “You did not take me in…” and the church says, “When did we see you a stranger and not take you in?” Will there be a special hearing for “liabilities?”
Listen up, you church(es) of Lubbock! Jesus is at your door tonight. He says, “Behold! I stand at the door and knock. If you open up, I will come in and eat with you! (Rev. 3:20). Don’t let “liabilities” be your liability.