Where’s The Church? (formerly Where’s Waldo?)

Here’s a turnabout for you:  I am now a volunteer through the premier homeless ministry program for keeping people off the streets during cold weather.

(Yes, that is a big turnabout.  No.  I do not have answers for how or why that came about.  Perhaps another time.)

But here is what sadly is the same:  The call is out.  Volunteers are needed.  As the coordinator explained tonight at the orientation meeting, every church, every social group, and every social service organization in this town has been notified and volunteers requested.  The desire is to raise 100 volunteers for the work.  But only about 10 have answered the call.

This is a “Christian” town, is it not???

Where is the church?  I even posted the news release on this blog.  I forwarded it to Vandelia Church.  They published it in the bulletin.  These are two outlets I had influence on, and the coordinator is already known as a master of media management.  So… if only 10 people have volunteered, I must ask Lubbock:  Where’s The Church?

Anyone want to speculate?

(Yes.  It is quite an irony to find myself aligned with the premier homeless ministry on this exact issue, but they have come to this point now too.  So I am in support of the drive for volunteers with them.  And I think it is the church that has gone M.I.A.)

Missed Opportunity

Missed Opportunity

WWJD?

Here’s a thought:

Grab your pastor, go out on the street tonight about 10:00 pm, find some homeless people, and pray with them.

Spend a good thirty minutes in the cold wind praying and asking Jesus what he would do.

I STRONGLY expect you will hear an answer to this prayer before you are finished.

Get Out of Your COMFORT ZONE and Eat at The LZ

“Comfort Zone.”  I never heard this terminology anywhere except from inside it.  I figure I was probably about 20 years old the first time I ever heard someone use that term.  I bet you can guess where I was and the phrase in which it was used.

I was sitting in a church amid a discussion group when one good brother used the phrase, “We need to get out of our comfort zones.”

Sound familiar?

Ever hear the term used in any other sentence?  Ever hear it used in a bar?  An airport?  A battlefield?  A grocery store checkout line?

Yeah, I think the terminology is its own sealed tomb.  If you are using it, you are stuck in it.  Allow me to demonstrate:

I guess it was some years later, probably about a dozen, when I was visiting one day with a fellow minister who informed me that our church met in the statistical heart of our city’s high-crime neighborhood.  We were the church closest to ground zero for drug related arrests, prostitution, burglaries, auto thefts and gun-shot wounds.  Our church met in the heart of this kind of neighborhood.  And he had gone out at midnight one night to see it first-hand.

This brother described to me how that he had witnessed a pimp beating a prostitute in a dark parking lot.  He drove his car so the headlights illuminated him, startled him, and he left.  The minister had scared the guy off, if only momentarily, and thus helped the lady in distress.

He also told me that one of our widow ladies from church lived in an apartment across the street from all this action.  Later, when I met her too, I found out that this 88 year old lady considered her presence there to be a mission from God.  All she did was be there (and pray for the place too).  She really stretched her neck out for Jesus in ways they don’t print up in the brochures.  And that summer the bullets from a drive-by shooting sprayed her apartment complex.  One bullet entered her kitchen window and struck the wall near her refrigerator.

What’s funny to me is how my game suddenly stepped up when I found that out.  I wanted to be a soldier for Christ, and I did not want to be outclassed by a little, old widow lady!!!

I don’t remember using the term “comfort zone” when I got out of it.  I do remember taking the streets at night and offering a communion service to any and all we could find to join us.  We took church out of its box!  God unleashed!  And he did not bring a gun for protection.

I recall cops and security guards chatting up the dangers with us as we took our ministry to the mean streets late at night.  We heeded no warnings.  We must have looked and sounded stupid by all conventional wisdom.  Naïve.  And we facilitated the table that God set up in the presence of our enemies (Ps 23:5), and then invited God’s enemies to join.

And they did.

But they thought we were cops – undercover! 

Completely unarmed except for the love of God, the street people were AFRAID OF US!  We offered only LOVE and prayer and sacrament.

Not everyone joined.  It’s not like we packed them in to church after that, although I did begin using the church van to round up people shortly thereafter!  No.  But these two crazy white boys totally blew the minds and imaginations of those drug addicts and their children!  And we stopped a murder doing that one night (more on that another time (I know I promised that before, and I mean it)).

Yeah… That is powerful.  And I am addicted, in a strange sense, to the rush of it.  I want to go back into that fray!  I want to see the miracles of God as he preaches his Jubilee message to the poor!  And despite all the good doctrine I get back in the “comfort zone,” nothing compares to the thrill of Jesus doing battle on the front lines.  Have you ever seen that (Rev. 19:11-19)?  Go check it out now!  Then enlist!!!

I suggest, to any who read here, “get out of your comfort zone” and join Jesus at the LZ.  He is coming under heavy fire!  But you can eat the meal he gives us at the table prepared in the presence of his enemies.  It tastes better than any meal you ever ate!

Homeless Apocalypse II

What you see driving by

What you see driving by

You MIGHT be excused for not knowing you had homeless people sleeping in the shadow of your steeple if this is what you saw on your way to church.  But if you got out of the car and approached, you might find enough evidence to investigate the matter.

Walking up to the camp

Walking up to the camp

Then, if you had the heart for Jesus, and “The Least of These” he identifies himself so intimately with, you might get close to see how he has been living just outside your church walls.  And if you did, you would find THIS:

Camp Jesus: Ground Zero

Camp Jesus: Ground Zero

And if you had the keys to a warm church building in your pocket, then what you do next determines whether you are a Matthew 25:40 Church or a Matthew 25:45 “Church.”

When the King comes to see how you did, what answer will you give?  Will you join the sheep or the goats?

Top 10 Signs “The Least of These” (A-hem) Jesus Is NOT Wanted In Church

10)  No one invites you.

9)    An actual sign says: Keep Out.

8)    An actual sign says: No Trespassing.

7)    An actual sign says: No Loitering.

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6)    Getting ignored by church members.

5)    Being asked to leave.

4)    Getting banned from the property.

3)    Having the cops called to escort you out.

2)    The “Care Group” does not call to tell you that the meeting time or place has changed.

And the number 1 sign that Jesus aka “The Least of These…” is not wanted in church…

1)    When leadership sends you a text message saying you are not allowed back on property and then reads an open letter to the congregation stating that you will not be allowed back.

(Hey, I might be a bit cynical, but I am not bitter.  I have either witnessed personally or personally experienced each one of these signs.  And it’s not like I was drunk, fornicating, cussing, or promoting those things.  The trouble I get into revolves entirely around the case I make that the church should open its doors to the poor – a very biblical idea.  It also is entirely INCLUSIVE, but gets labeled as “DIVISIVE.”  Hmmm…  I am still trying to get us all together.  I am not AGAINST the church, but I am against excluding the poor.)

Rethinking Home Security

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Home requires boundaries.  Lines drawn between home and not home.  Those boundaries have doors and windows which allow access and restrict access, but that in no way necessitates mistrust.  Rather, there is a strong implication that some authority sets the agenda.  But that agenda is characterized by loving trust.  In fact, without trust, home cannot really be home.

Trust is the thing that holds a home together.  Common trust holds community together.  Home is made up of people who celebrate and share rest with one another.  Sharing rest is all about trust, and trust is all about having and maintaining boundaries, but also managing the access – the doors.

When I was a kid, I lived in a rural community where it seemed everyone knew everyone else.  Anonymity was virtually nonexistent.

And no one locked the doors to their homes.

This does not mean that we knew everyone equally.  It did not mean everyone was equally welcome in each others homes.  But it did mean there was a deep, though largely unspoken, respect for each others boundaries.  Our community had a common trust.  The word for that is FAITH – a delicate web-work of relationships oriented around a sense of authority which insisted we all value each other highly.

We were all extremely vulnerable to one another, but largely unaware of how deeply vulnerable we were.  We just did not worry about it.

As a 12 year old, my friends and I knew we did not just walk into the Widow Wilson’s house and take what we wanted.  Widow Wilson, though, was known for her fantastic homemade peanut butter cookies.  She always had fresh-baked pie.  She had something we wanted, and whether she was home or away, we knew those cookies were in there.  There was nothing to stop us taking what we wanted except a respect for her boundary.  But we knocked and only entered when invited.

But she always invited. 

In fact, she always invited us not only into her kitchen, but into her smile, into her heart, into her celebration of children.  It seemed to be the highlight of her day to share a few cookies or some fresh pie.  She seemed to feel loved by sharing these things.  I don’t think us kids would have used the word love to describe it, but that is why we went there – though it seemed like we were just getting cookies.

And when Widow Wilson went away to visit her grandchildren out of town for a few days, either my mother or her cousin would stop by every other day to water her plants and bring in her mail.  I was sent by my father to cut her grass.  And us kids knew there would be no sharing of the cookies until she returned.

No one thought to call this kind of community “Neighborhood Watch,” but that is exactly what it was.  We did not need a sign in the flower bed to warn us kids or strangers to “Keep Out!”  And Widow Wilson did not need to pay a monthly service fee for a security alarm system.  In fact, no one really thought of home security in any such shadowy terms or negativity.

Rather, we just shared faith.  Trust expressed in the celebration of love and cookies and respect of boundaries.  It was a faith that seems to have disappeared from the world today.  Our common sense of authority is largely gone with it.  In place of authority, we now have home security systems with alarms, flowerbed signs, and lots of monthly fees – all feeding on anonymity and fear while transforming homes into armed fortresses.

Without that common faith, home is hardly worth feigning.

Wisdom of The World??? Or The Foolishness of God? (1st Cor. 1:20-25)

Cleanliness is next to godliness. (2nd Opinions 1)

Give to all who ask…. (Luke 6:30)

God helps those who help themselves. (2nd Opinions 2)

Go sell all you own, give it to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven, and come follow…. (Mark 10:21)

Feed a man a fish; you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life. (2nd Opinions 3)

Give strong drink to the one who is dying and wine to him whose life stinks.  Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his troubles no more. (Prov. 31:6-7)

News Flash!!!

…This Just In….

If you are reading this blog and need a place to sleep in Lubbock, Texas during the cold weather, please call the number at the bottom of the post.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Homeless Ministries Open Doors for Winter Emergency Shelter

 

Lubbock, TX – November 11, 2015 – As temperatures drop, severe weather preparations are being made by local ministries that work among people experiencing homelessness. Carpenter’s Church, Salvation Army, Grace Campus, Restoring Hope, and others have developed a plan to help Lubbock’s most vulnerable citizens.

 

On evenings when the temperature is 32 degrees or below:

  • Carpenter’s Church will extend its hours to close at 6pm
  • At 6pm, people will be transported from Carpenter’s Church to Salvation Army and Grace Campus
  • Salvation Army and Grace Campus will provide overnight emergency shelter until people are transported the following morning
  • On the same evenings, Restoring Hope will provide shelter at St. John Neumann Catholic Church for families who do not have alternatives

 

“This is not a long-term solution, but it’s necessary to keep people safe” says Jaime Wheeler, Community Resource Minister at Carpenter’s Church. “People need safe places to stay when the weather gets bad. We are grateful to have strong collaborations with the Salvation Army, Grace Campus, Restoring Hope, and other organizations in Lubbock. This partnership will help all of our friends stay warm and dry this winter.”

 

Volunteers are needed at Grace Campus for these emergency shelter nights. Volunteers will need to go to a mandatory 1 hour training, which will be offered on the following days:

Sun, Nov. 15th at 1pm

Tues., Nov. 17th at 5:30pm

Weds., Nov. 18th at 7pm

Thurs., Nov. 19th at 5:30pm

Sun., Nov. 22nd at 1pm

 

All volunteer trainings will be held at Carpenter’s church, 1916 13th St. Volunteers for Grace Campus must be over 18, male, and willing to stay the night. Female volunteers will be needed to work with the families at St. John Neumann Catholic Church. For more information or to volunteer or to donate funds for emergency shelter items, please call (806) 687-6876.

 

Contact:

Jaime Wheeler

Community Resource Minister

Carpenter’s Church

jwheeler@carpenterslubbock.org

(806) 687-6876

Praise the Lord! 

The church is actually opening doors tonight!!!

Hallelujah!