Reconciliation

Asleep in snowvs. Christmas 2015 stockings

Is there a middle ground?  Why would you want it if there was?

Which one bears the marks of HEAVEN?

Conflict/Challenge

It feels like I am the lone prophet.

This blog, one aspect of the overall prophetic ministry, is characterized strongly by the challenge(s) it poses for “Christians” and the “Church” of Lubbock, Texas.  I am not exactly the only voice making such challenge, but I am exceptionally rare.  I can think of a handful of other voices raising similar challenges (some of which I am in full agreement with, others I criticize), and with one exception among them, they seem very minor and isolated from me and from one another.

The one notable voice of one critic became shrill on a number of occasions both directly confronting church leadership and managing to get into the print and TV news briefly – but brevity is the key there.  That person does not appear to be in the challenging business anymore.  He raised some hard questions alright… questions that have not received an answer, which still linger to this day, but the guy seems to have become frustrated and left the “conversation” now.

On other occasions, such as the “101” class offered by the Premier Homeless Church, which I was obliged to attend as I tried to be a team player, I witnessed a couple of questions being raised which were glossed over by the presenters rather than dealt with honestly or properly.  The mere fact that the presenters cast themselves as experts seems to have gotten this gloss a pass somehow.  It seems that maintaining politeness (being politically correct?) turned out to be more important than actually tending to the flock.

Then there are the complaints of the homeless themselves.  From my very first night on the streets, I heard complaints where the pastor at the Premier Homeless Church was named and blamed by various homeless people that I met.  I remember taking those complaints with a grain of salt at the time, actually defending the pastor’s name and reputation while considering the source(s) of these complaints to be the irrational rantings of beleaguered souls and addicts with chips on their shoulders.  I defended him also on the grounds that engaging in needless gossip was rather divisive, and did not promote unity.  It was months later that I began to see that some of these complaints appeared legit on the one hand and ignored by leadership on the other.

Anyway, with these exceptions, it seems that I am the lone voice of reason challenging the status quo.  I am careful to note that it SEEMS this way.  I am not omniscient, so it is possible that others are raising challenges I am unaware of.  But this lonely voice, which also feels impotent (btw), seems to have isolated me in a lonely place, and I do not hear the other voices (assuming they are really out there).  This lonely position factors strongly into my reason for posting.

It is important to note, I speak for others – not myself.  My cause is not my own; it’s more altruistic than that.  First and foremost, I speak for God!  I seek his word and hold others to account accordingly.  This feature alone seems to set me apart.  But it overlaps with the cause of the poor (Matt. 25:40), and so I speak for them in the same breath.  I am not complaining about my own hurt feelings, though I cannot ignore them nor deny them.  They play a part, but my own hurt feelings are not the cause I champion, not for a minute!  No.  I speak as one who has joined the homeless sleeping outside locked church-house doors in the cold and wet.  And while warming those cold bodies is a close second in importance to me, the fact that Jesus claims they ARE HIM causes me primarily to wonder why the church locks HIM out!

Reconciliation?

Okay, if you are a regular – or even quasi-regular – reader here, you probably know this conflict already.  But I entitled this post RECONCILIATION, and that is the real point here.  I want reconciliation.  I do not want to be a crank; I do not want to punish anyone.  I want God’s world reconciled.  I merely set the desire for reconciliation in the context of conflict in which I find myself isolated for careful consideration.

I believe I referenced on this blog before that when my grandfather died, almost 2 years ago, he reconciled his relationship with my dad (and me).  This… after decades of deep and damaging conflict – entrenched opposition that played a key role in dividing my family.  My parents were divorced, largely because of this.  I have relatives that speak to one another very little or not at all, largely because of this.  And even now, so much damage lingers from that conflict.  Pappa’s reconciliation was not a cure that fixed everything.  He merely repented on his deathbed, and healed what he could before facing eternity.  And I thank God daily for what he did.  It is his legacy for me.

Thus I reflect on it a lot … critically.

My grandfather was a principled man of God – a preacher and minister to the church most of his life.  He spent his life serving Jesus, and that was his spiritual/moral compass!  His opposition against his son-in-law, my dad – who also was a minister to the church, was not some willy-nilly fight.  He believed in his position with a passion!  He was not alone in it either.  My Mamma also maintained this opposition to my dad.  But there is no doubt that the wise, old grandfather was the familial shepherd of our flock.  He bore responsibility for his attitude, words, and actions.  And by the time he died, he faced them in a new light and decided he needed to seek forgiveness.

At that point, my Pappa humbled himself to the point of death (of course at the point of death).  He had no more strength to fight and no more power of persuasion.  He was broken down and busted.  Facing his mortality alone in that bed and taking inventory of his life, this was one area that had not achieved the desired results or honored God, but instead wounded generations of his own family – of the flock he was charged with tending.

And not only did he humble himself to seek forgiveness, but he risked great vulnerability in asking forgiveness.  He summoned my dad, via yours truly, and both my dad and I did not trust his intentions.  We kept the summons a secret from the rest of our family until we could determine with certainty that goodwill was going to come of it.  But Dad took the request seriously and showed up.

I was there.  I watched my Pappa, with tears in his eyes, tell my dad, “I need to ask your forgiveness…”  And in that brief, pregnant pause, everything was on the line.  But then my dad said, “It is I who need your forgiveness.”  And the two embraced each other for the first time in decades!  Thank YOU! Jesus!!!

Yes, I have kept this moment in my heart and in my prayers ever since.  I reflect on it often.  I ask God to help me cultivate reconciliation in my own heart, in my life, and in the world around me.  I want desperately to be reconciled.

After Pappa’s reconciliation, and after several months of prayer, I made it my practice to pray blessings on the Premier Homeless Church that kicked me out.  They did not kick me out for cussing, lying, stealing, fornicating, or any other standard moral issue.  They kicked me out for my unrelenting challenge to their practice of closing the poor out of the church – especially in the winter cold.  They kicked me out after many repeated efforts, including emails, text messages, phone calls, and face-to-face meetings to find a compromise.  But absolutely NO compromise was offered.  I hold forth that my case was not taken seriously and that my ministry was belittled.  Then I was kicked out, and I moved my protest outside that congregation and continued the challenge in any available public avenue I could find.  But as reconciliation became a major feature of my experience with my grandfather, and subsequently my prayers, I began purposefully praying FOR the Premier Homeless Church and thanking God for the many good things they do (for they actually do many good things).  If nothing else, this would soften my own heart toward them.

And then recently I encountered a blog which is part of a ministry of reconciliation.  A whole ministry organization geared toward this exact kind of healing for the world.  I am confronted and challenged by it.  This ministry has drawn into my focus the centrality of reconciliation in the future God holds for his creation.  There is no way around it, if I want to be a part of God’s future, I had better be on board with reconciliation!

Think of this: Peter betrayed Jesus ever bit as bad as Judas when he denied him three times outside his sham trial.  The same Peter who swore he would stand with Jesus through thick-n-thin and to the point of death, suddenly buckled at the confrontation of a servant girl!  In so doing, he put himself in company with Judas, except that Judas refused reconciliation, and chose death instead.  Peter, humbled himself and risked it all with Jesus afterward, and Peter found his reward!

Stuck in Conflict

My Pappa was a principled man of God who did not engage his conflict with my dad willy-nilly.  Personally, I think he was blind-sided by a handful of pressures which lent themselves to the appearance of Christian principles.  He needed to ask forgiveness.  AT THE SAME TIME, it was appropriate for my dad to ask the same IN RETURN.  Neither party was entirely pure.  But it was Pappa who set the scene, and it was on his watch as familial shepherd under which the conflict occurred and was allowed to fester.  I think it was appropriate for Pappa to be the one to initiate the reconciliation and to do so by asking forgiveness.  If it had gone the other way (if it had been Dad asking forgiveness), it would have legitimated the error in Pappa’s agendas for our family – agendas that played a huge part in getting my parents divorced!  These “principles” which characterized my Pappa’s position, needed to face their own challenge(s)!

In making that observation, I am neither saying that my Pappa was entirely wrong nor that my dad was even mostly right.  My point is that the way these proverbial cards were stacked almost guaranteed entrenchment of the conflict.  And ohhhhhh how I could have wished these matter(s) would have been resolved decades ago!  For we still live with the aftermath of this fight despite the reconciliation that has been accomplished!  My mom died years before her father, and the effect Pappa had on her relationship with my dad cannot be mended.  Mamma, too, died years before this reconciliation.  If this could have been nipped in the bud, how much other damage would not have been allowed?

And then it is quite easy for me to make the rather obvious connection to the conflict I face with the church of Lubbock (especially the Premier Homeless Church).  Not that it is the same, but the similarities are noteworthy in that I am a principled man of God – as is every member of leadership there!  How is it that we can all be the people of God and yet not get our act together?  However, should I be giving their bad behavior and broken ideas a pass simply as part of getting along?  (If I am in the wrong – assuming I am the blind-sided party here – should they give in to the challenge(s) I present just as a gesture of trying to “get along”?)  The question(s) apply in both directions.

But then there is the matter of isolation.  I used to be a part of the Premier Homeless Church.  I was not part of the staff, nor did I want to be, but I was a minister there.  I gave of myself to the ministry of that church at sacrificial levels.  I did not do that hating the place!  On the contrary, I loved it.  I wanted to be a part of what they were doing!  But when I ran afoul with leadership over the matter of kicking people out in the cold of winter, I got kicked out!  I became isolated.  My voice is all but muted.  The desired outcome still is not achieved.  God is not honored – especially where I hear street homeless people reference (and lament) the conflict and say ugly things designed to warrant my sympathy and criticize leadership.  They promote discord doing that.  Yet, somehow it is me that is shunned?

Just exactly what would reconciliation look like?  Assuming we really want it, what specifically do we aim at?  How do we reach for it? If we settle for the status quo unchallenged, or even for the status quo as challenged, we end up where we already are:

Asleep in snowSquatter Camp Vandelia Village I

…and that is no prize.

Consolable

It is important to me that any conclusions I draw for such questions be informed by biblical analysis.  I want to honor God with my life and ministry.  If it means I conclude that I have been mistaken, that I have sinned, and need to return to leadership with apologies, repenting and seeking their forgiveness, then I must face that.  I really cannot allow my own pride to stop me.

But, again if you have followed this blog hardly at all, you surely know that I repeatedly lean on Scripture as I pose my challenge(s).  I have honed the essence of my whole ministry down to a single point: the church-house door closed to Jesus; Jesus locked outside – thus alienating God’s apocalyptic (Luke 14) party.  While I frequently address peripheral issues and uncover biblical support in related areas, I almost always simplify the hub of my challenge(s) to the joining up of Matthew 25:40, where Jesus claims the poor, sojourning, stranger (among others) embodies his very self, with Revelation 3:20, where Jesus proclaims that he is knocking at the door, and if we will open up to him, he will come in and dine with us!  With these passages bouncing sparks off each other and joined up with the issue of locking the church-house door while homeless people sleep outside, I have a very simple challenge for leadership to consider.

On the one hand, leadership could take me serious and then make a case for how wrong I am to join these passages to each other and to this issue as I have done – and thus rebut me.  Or leadership could take me serious and say: Agent X, you have opened our eyes to Jesus outside our doors that we have locked.  Thank you!  We repent.

I really cannot imagine much compromise.  It’s pretty much one or the other, as I see it.  And I strongly suspect that the only other option (sadly the one the church seems to have taken), is to marginalize me and ignore me as far as possible.  (Yeah, if leadership there actually LOVES me yet thinks I am misguided, how did this get to be their modus operandi?  And with no “third way” available, I find my prophetic ministry isolates me further and further from the “church” – but I refuse to go away.

I do not believe in “Lone Ranger” Christianity.  I cannot just pick up my marbles and go home.  I am stuck with these people of God whether I am an insider or an outsider.  I am here to stay.  But I, like the prophets before me, must insist that the church get right with God.  It does me (nor any of them) any good to have unity based anywhere else.

So, I seek reconciliation.  But it often does not look that way or even feel that way.  I run a risk, first of appearing (but also of actually becoming) just a crank – a kook that no one can get along with.  But I post this message declaring and reaffirming that I am not, nor is that my agenda.  No.  I seek reconciliation with you – Church of Lubbock – but I wait here standing firm on the word of God for you to come around.

“Come,” says the prophet who speaks for God to God’s people, “Let us reason together.  Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow…”

This is biblical prophecy.  The prophet must not cave to the wayward people, though they be the people of God.  Rather he must stand firm and speak for God who is left out in the cold.  And if need be, he must stand in the cold with him until the people take him seriously and repent.  THEN we will find reconciliation!

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8 comments

  1. John Lewis · December 15

    “Happy are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons and daughters of God!!”

    It seems you are stuck in a me vs them conflict. Archbishop Desmond Tutu once so brilliantly said, without forgiveness, there is no future. In the past few years, I’ve had instances in my family where I’ve both needed forgiveness, and I’ve needed to forgive. Without this forgiveness, there was no future for my marriage, no future for my family to remain intact.

    So much of Jesus’ ministry seems to be focused on healing relationships. Whether personal, between groups between nations. “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave our gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” From, you already know, the Sermon on the Mount.

    You have a broken relationship with your church family here. We have lots of prophecy that was once pointing us to the one to come. I’m going to tell the truth. I filter everything in the bible through one event. The bible has a center. The center of the bibie, I believe (and I will say, strongly believe) is the cross of Jesus Christ. When I say the cross, I mean Christ cruicified. Specifically, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

    He absorbed the blow, took the offense, forgave DURING THE ACT, and came back offering words of peace, not retribution. He took the blow, took the anger, took the hostility, and turned it into love. Because in the face of all the prophets foretold, all they said, all they predicted, all they predicted that has come true, above all this we have Jesus, who revealed the true nature of God to us. He revealed to us that God is Love.

    Somebody, in every conflict, needs to take the blow without striking back. Somebody needs to take the blow, offering not payback but forgiveness. The next blow only leads to the next blow. The next shot across the bow only brings another shot across the bow.

    Love ya brother, and I aint there. So yes, easy for me to say. But Jesus has much to say to us all about handling the contlicts in our lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Larry Who · December 15

    “I do not believe in “Lone Ranger” Christianity…”

    I had a online discussion with a well-known Christian leader and author who stated, “God will not use ‘Lone Ranger’ prophets.”

    My disagreement was that God used “Lone Ranger” prophets in the Bible. Therefore, we can’t say God will not use them again because that’s up to Him.

    The discussion continued online for two weeks with others (his friends and followers) disagreeing with me. It was a challenging discussion. He eventually admitted the Bible went along with my analysis, but he felt God had shown him this would no longer be the case. His reasoning was that God had set in place a spiritual government in each city under the headship of pastors. I pointed out that his reasoning was not scriptural either. Gulp! We finally ended by agreeing to disagree.

    Most of the time, believers with a vision like yours will start off as a “Lone Ranger,” heading off the known path and pioneering a new path for others to follow. Pioneering is tough and lonely, but the Lord’s grace is sufficient.

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    • John Lewis · December 15

      There may be Lone Ranger prophets. There are no Lone Ranger Christians. We may need to correct our brothers and sisters at times, but they are still our brothers and sisters. Christianity is a shared faith. The Christian walk can not be walked alone. You can’t love others alone. You can’t love your enemies alone. Jesus Himself ALMOST never walked alone. Even when He went to be alone, He took John, Peter and James with Him. The rare case when He went to be alone with the Father they were still nearby.

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      • Agent X · December 15

        Let me qualify my use of the phrase “Lone Ranger Christian”. I am talking here about people who think they can just leave the church behind as so much “religion” or “organized religion” or whatever. Basically, you cannot say, Give me Jesus; keep your church. You must be part of God’s family to be with God.

        That said, I see myself in relation to the church even as a prophet. Yes, I am isolated, but not of my own accord, nor do I ever really GO AWAY. I am outside the camp – somewhere near Golgotha, it seems But I am always dealing with the church.

        I could be down there protesting abortion clinics. I think that is worthwhile, but if I found my church performing the abortions, that would mean I must confront. And as it is, that is where my confrontation is. I am not down at city hall seeking them to let Jesus stay in the shelter, I am at the church calling them to take Jesus in. Thus, I see myself not as a lone ranger, nor do I endorse such, but it feels like it and I think looks like it too. Stuff I want to clarify, since it can be confusing.

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      • John Lewis · December 15

        Actually I don’t see you as a Lone Ranger from what I know. You are out there in the front lines, serving Christ by loving others the best way you know how. I have A LOT of respect for that.

        I live in the northern mid Atlantic, I believe (but I could be wrong), we have a much longer period of freezing temperatures and cold nights than you have down. Many of our churches, including mine, participate in a ministry called safe nights. Essentially, and I’m not sure of the dates, but for about a three month period, a different church in our county will step up and be the “safe nights” church that week. We will take in I believe about 30 people, give them a warm bed, breakfast, and bag lunch, then feed them dinner as well. There is a bus that will go and pick up and drop off participants in the program each night and morning. On the coldest days, and during winter storms, we do our best to provide 24 hour shelter.

        Maybe this could be a model for Lubbock. Instead of all the pressure always being in one church (even if it is a ‘homeless’ church), maybe God’s people could come together in community to help the most vulnerable.

        Maybe you’ve already tried this route, I don’t know. It works up here, and gets many people involved. It also gives each church a “Start” and “end” date to prepare for and get through. And a sense of accomplishment for those in the churches helping with the ministry for doing their part.

        Just a thought.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. John Lewis · December 15

    I hope thus didn’t come across condescending or overly critical. The overall point I’m trying to make, which I may have left out, is that without forgiveness, which has to begin on one side or the other, there is no future in your relationship with your church brothers here. You will each be opposing sides of personal war which will continue into most of your lives. I don’t know these people, but being specifically a homeless church, they at least must have the same heart and intention for doing good as you….they intend to be in the same side as you. The relationship is broken and will stay broken. I don’t think your intention is for it to stay broken. My point in referencing Desmond tutu is that without forgiveness, there is no future of you working together with these people.

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  4. Agent X · December 15

    I am so very pleased that my (internet) friends (I trust we are true friends nonetheless) engage me in dialog here. Thank you John and Larry! For me, blogging is about dialog, and yet it so often functions as monolog instead. I appreciate your careful and thoughtful responses.

    This post is deeply personal for me. I fear it is redundant, really, and I feared it would be received that way. Sure, I put a few new nuances in it, but overall, the message is the same as dozens of post I have offered before. But the issue persists with me, and I live with it’s consequences at a personal level as I watch it continue to fester despite my best efforts otherwise. I really hope God is doing something important here, but that feels thin.

    I am committed to reconciliation. We do not have it… yet, but I am committed to that in the long run. I write this post to clarify that. And if it is to be found behind my own blind side, I will be grateful for the help finding it. But I still see it as an issue unresolved until the church makes some changes.

    Forgiveness? Yes. That is involved. But what exactly does that look like here at this point?

    Do I need to ask forgiveness? What for exactly? What am I sorry for? Am I sorry that I said, “Let’s bring these people in”? No. Am I sorry that I took my concern to leadership? (Well, maybe. After all, I find time and time again that asking church leadership for either permission to bring ministry or blessing over it tends to invite the kibosh! For instance, when I asked (a different church) if we could host the homeless on the lawn over night – holding a “lock out” in contrast to the youth group’s “lock ins”, I was passed around from leader to leader until finally one of them said it presented “liabilities” to the church that the church could not afford. Really? How does that even compute? So, I am sorta sorry I took my concern to leadership, but that is not something I need to be forgiven, so that does not compute either.) Am I sorry I confronted the UNtrue statement (I refrain from calling it a lie) made by leadership that we could not bring in the homeless because we lacked volunteers? No. Do I need to apologize for both seeking and responding to requests for meetings to resolve the concern? No. Am I sorry I cut off the charade of meetings just before they put their ultimatum on me? No. Am I sorry that I held a prophetic communion service in front of a locked church house door and in front of the security camera, knocking on the door and quoting Revelation 3:20? No.

    Do I need to forgive the church for locking Jesus outside? Sure, but when are they going to stop this practice? What does forgiveness in that sense look like?

    Jesus picks a fight with those running the Temple when he throws tables and drives out the money changers. It is a fight that is not over until he says, “It is finished”. It is a fight he intends to win in a way that looks disastrously like losing amid utter shame and waste. Nevertheless, it is a fight and he picks it.

    I view his Galilean ministry as a burr under the saddle of Judaism of his day, but barely that. Yes, the authorities send envoys to check him out a couple times. Yes his healing on the Sabbath merits an effort to have him destroyed – but if he drifts into the shadows, he can be discredited and ignored easily enough. However, when he enters the Temple, he would have us believe this is the return to the Temple Ezekiel 43 only dreamed of. But if you go read Ezek 43, you will notice what every Jew there that day who walked by sight rather than by faith also noticed… it didn’t LOOK like what they expected! On the contrary, this uppity peasant/prophet-wanna-be, has now overstepped his bounds and gone beyond the pale. Now, he must pay.

    And pay he does.

    Nevertheless, there is a time and place for gritty prophetic confrontation, even where Jesus is concerned. This is not his only gritty, prophetic confrontation, but it is his prophetic keynote address to Jerusalem.

    Even St Paul opposes Peter TO HIS FACE at Antioch… AND THIS WHEN Peter withdraws from the table fellowship! And there is no indication that Paul’s point was heeded then. It is quite possible that Paul got marginalized then, just like seems to have happened to him with the Galatians to whom he tells this story. And for that matter, he calls them “stupid” (3:1). His second letter to Corinth shows that he seems to have come to a bitter place in his relationship to that church!

    St John confronts the seven churches of Asia in the Apocalypse! His command to “Pull out” of the whore, Babylon is a particularly spicy confrontation too.

    Where is the reconciliation in any of these instances? What does it look like? Are any of these observations applicable to my situation?

    Consider this: We have changed our mind about Gay Marriage at Vandelia church, one of the other places I seem to have raw conflict and not much peace. In fact, that church spit and is now decimated over it. Sad. But unrepentant. Sadder still. BUT what if your church began endorsing abortion? What if not only endorsing it, what if they raised money to fund abortions for single women who had unwanted pregnancies? What if this happened where you go to church?

    Would you protest it? And if you did protest to no avail, after a while would you give in for the sake of “reconciliation”? For “unity”?

    What would forgiveness look like then? Would you apologize for protesting to begin with, and then join the abortion funding ministry? How would that jive with God?

    I am open to further consideration, but questions like these keep the ball in play, it seems.

    Thanx again so much for your input. It is valued here!!!

    X

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  5. Agent X · December 15

    John,

    Thanx. I definitely feel the isolation. The loneliness of this position sux. I really hope to attract others to the dialog and even more to the persuasion. That way it is not so lonely. The position is part of the loneliness, but then there is getting shunned at one church and kicked out of another. Even as I think I may well join this one I have been visiting lately, I come with huge criticism for the Church of Lubbock in general, and this one falls right into the category right along with the others. If they let me in, I will have a home again, but I am in that uphill battle to make appropriate changes still, and I run the risk of getting shunned and/or kicked out all over again. I already face that me vs. them you spoke of in your opening statement. It is damaging. It is lonely.

    But of course, I am not Lone Ranger. Especially if they let me in. Even more if they make the changes, which in addition to serving Jesus would be a validation of my ministry (and me). Helps loneliness, which is part of my burden alright.

    As for the cold season… ours is short by comparison and generally not as severe. However, a person can die of hypothermia in like 50 degrees night air. The risk starts about there. And actually, statistically, people in Texas die at a far higher rate from heat exposure than cold!

    As for the safe nights ministry…

    Lubbock hosts the Family Promise ministry, which I think is a national ministry that uses churches in a similar manner. The key difference is that they deal only in poor families. Married with kids. AND in recent years, the Lubbock chapter has purchased a house where the churches now come to serve on a rotating schedule rather than hosting the families in the church buildings like they used to for years before.

    I volunteered and served with Family Promise a couple of times. I really liked it – especially the way the churches of the whole city share the load AND the way they (used to) host these folk in their church facilities. I think that “church” connection is vital. And though I realize that the building is not the same as church, the symbolism of it is still strong that way. I wish Lubbock would open that same kind of ministry to the street homeless in general.

    Beyond even that, my more hidden agenda is to get these homeless people into the homes of the church people of Lubbock. I see hosting them in church buildings as being a gateway process to that further ideal.

    Let me set out a vision for ministry here:

    Imagine all (or a sampling of several) churches I Lubbock coming together to cooperate in this ministry. That alone is worth more than words can express. It requires reconciliation far beyond my personal issues with it though! But if we had say… 10 or 20… or heaven help us 45 churches in this town willing to host the street homeless night after night, we could offer a bed to 500 homeless people nightly! (And I am more sensitive to cold weather issues, but lets set that aside and just say we do this year round in our effort to get Jesus – the Matthew-25 Jesus – back in our churches!) If we had this arrangement, we would have them split up into groups of 5 or 10 at most. These people are sooooooo much easier to manage in smaller groups. The church house facilities are already to go and provide far more comfort to the poor and to the volunteers than the barn or any mass shelters we already provide (not to mention they currently sit empty and unused on a nightly basis for the most part).

    I am not stupid. I know that lots of tramps out there will turn down the invitation. Even on severely cold nights, lots of them turn down the invitation and risk death rather than coming in. But as it stands now, the church is not even inviting, and that in and of itself is tragic! I am aware that lots of scoundrels will accept the invitation – people who enjoy causing trouble… and churches are vulnerable to that. But Jesus accepted nails in his flesh, surely we can handle this challenge! A little perspective… PLEASE! But like I said, before, in smaller groups, they will be easier to manage by-n-large. There are ways to mitigate a lot of these risks. Wise shepherds can figure that out.

    But then as the volunteers who chaperone get to know these individuals personally, build relationship(s) and so forth, a time will come when they can begin to recommend some of them to go join a family and try living in their empty guest bedroom as the time becomes appropriate. Some homeless people will achieve this kind of fidelity quickly, others slowly. Some will for a while and then will break trust and face eviction! BTW, kicking people out of church is biblical! However, there is an appropriate process for it… look it up. Nevertheless, discipline should play a role here. I am not saying you should let people come and overrun your home. But the fact is that more than job training, more than addiction treatment, more than a host of such programs, the single biggest thing homeless people need is a HOME! After all, we take little babies who crap all over us into our homes and put them on what is generally regarded as an 18 year plan of discipline. If we do that for babies, why cant we imagine more for the Jesus of the streets?

    And then, for those who prove to build trust and fidelity with their host families, they should be expected to contribute to the overall good of the home that welcomes them. It is a process, but we can aim at it from day one. Why not? And for that matter, why would we expect them to ever move out? I mean, if they get married and start families of their own, that would make sense, but if they learn to abide in the Christian home and if the Christian home learns to abide in harmony with the Jesus they have welcomed, why would you ever break that up? You have effectively achieved something very near to a New Testament house church, actually. A

    Then if churches all over the nation caught the drift, and Christians started living sacrificially – AND finding the rich reward and blessing from all this like in a Luke-14 party as a result – we could probably eliminate poverty! And certainly our culture would be impacted – perhaps even persuaded to become Christian in some far truer sense than anyone ever imagined before!

    Somebody stop me before this vision gets APOCALYPTIC!!!

    I mean… I’m just spit balling here. But can’t a prophet dream dreams?

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