Please, Let Me Touch You With My 10 Ft Pole

The love Lubbock’s homeless receives from the Church of Lubbock is genuine (sorta).  I need to take care and point out that through the various churches (in a few instances), parachurches, and 501c3 ministries, and alliance between these and other agencies Lubbock reaches out to the homeless with a lot of resources.  Lubbock feeds the hungry, no doubt.  There are numerous places to get a meal for free and at least one meal can be had everyday in this town by anybody needing it.  There are numerous clothing ministries keeping the homeless in something to wear.  We have various shelter options too.  I don’t want to misrepresent this stuff.

I sense it is possible that non-local people engaging this blog might suspect Lubbock does not offer these services.  That would be wrong.  Lubbock offers all of these services and more (medical care too, for instance) to varying degrees and in various ways.  These services have value, sometimes life-saving value.  I do not deny any of this.

On the contrary, I thank God daily for all the services this town offers to the poor as a part of my routine prayers.  Even more, I will freely tell you, these are the reasons I ever became involved with some of the ministries offered around town to begin with!

And I did not leave these ministries behind because I didn’t like them; I left when I was either passed over (my participation was not accepted) or kicked out.  But none of that should confuse the fact that real people with real needs get real needs met everyday.  And I am grateful for every crumb that falls from the table of Lubbock!

I hope that is clear to my readers here.  If it wasn’t clear before, I am telling you now.  Take it from Agent X!  I am the biggest critic by far; so if I concede all of that, you surely can trust it is true, even if you don’t verify it.

So what is the problem?

The “Church”.

This is a Christian town, if ever there was one.  You can’t get more “Christian” than Lubbock, Texas.  Yet to my knowledge (except for arrangements made through Family Promise, with a very narrow focus on women with children) no church in Lubbock hosts the homeless for the night.   The church-house doors are closed to “the least of these” night after night.  Few, if any, churches host the homeless to SHARE A MEAL.  And beyond that, there is no special welcome made to the homeless to worship with the church.  And there is no excuse for it.

Perhaps that doesn’t matter to you.  Some of you readers care about the homeless but couldn’t give a rip for the church.  I don’t share your values (completely), and this blog will be meaningless to you – if that’s you.  But for those who care that the “church” be the church – at least strive to be even if falling short – then we have a long way to go.

But some of you will say, “The church is doing much, actually!”  And I YES! – sorta.  But the church expresses the loving touch of Jesus with a ten foot pole.  Most of this benevolence is funneled through the nonprofits, and not handled by the Body of Christ.

Show up at ANY church in this town on a Sunday morning and look around.  How many street homeless people do you see?  Ten?  Five? Three? Two?? Is there even one???  (I almost feel like Abraham bargaining with God to save Sodom and Gomorrah.)

If you could be there following Jesus on those dusty Galilean trails and crisscrossing the Sea of Galilee  as he takes his ministry to Israel, you would find him mobbed by every kind of broken, lowly, sinner, the poor and the needy.  If you could watch him enter Jerusalem for that fateful Passover, you would find the poor and needy mobs lining his parade in welcome to him.  But you show up in church in Lubbock, Texas on a Sunday morning, and you are not likely to find such people clinging to him.  And if you ask where they all are… ask any pastor, any deacon… you are sure to find a caring response.  With a twinkle in the eye and a warm caring smile, they will tell you, “We have a place for them down at… [the other end of our ten foot pole]”.

Seriously, look and listen to the response.  You can see it all over the face that smiles and glibly gushes about all the great things “we” do for the poor, and, like I said, there are a lot.  The budget is huge, the array of services is vast, and so is the distance we carefully put between Jesus and the poor, disguised very carefully to look and sound like LOVE.

And if you want to take the guided tour, that is exactly what you will find.  The church of Lubbock is banking that you won’t ask the wrong questions, that you won’t dig too deeply beneath the surface, that you won’t think for yourself about some of these inconsistencies.  If you do, they say you are “going rogue”, and marginalize you too.

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8 comments

  1. T. F. Thompson · July 8

    Take your number and wait in line for your turn. The 10 foot pole grows longer when they attempt to near the crowd. “What if they touch me…” they ask? No, we couldn’t have the filth from those dirty bums around us. And all during that time Jesus continues to ask, “Who touched me for I felt the power leave my body…” Jesus always cares and even asks by name. With Jesus it is not even a what but always a who. That’s how personal God is. We should be the same.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. T. F. Thompson · July 8

    Reblogged this on Hard Times Ministries and commented:
    You are not welcomed here until you take a bath. But even then, you will still be dirty. Come in if you dare.

    Like

  3. Agent X · July 8

    Anonymous comment says:

    Acts 6 the church is charged with neglecting the “Grecian Widows” in the daily ministration. The Jerusalem elders don’t bring these widows into the assembly to fed and care for them. Instead the appoint men with Greek names to especially ensure distribution to these widows. Back earlier in Book of Acts the Church was reportedly meeting daily in each other’s homes ~ sharing and eating together. By Acts 6 this seems not to include widows at least in some kind of full assembly communal “Love Feast.”
    Are these racial distinctions “10 foot long pole” ministry?
    Meanwhile Paul in Ephesians call us to have “the mind of Christ” an apparent reference to a mindset of attitude which also is a basis for doctrinal holdings. Evening later when reference is made to the church leaders who are challenged the conduct their ministry “truthing in love”.
    I’m unaware of deeper studies into the parachurch-like ministry as that done on behalf of the poor widows. I suspect nothing of fame. But I’m interested.
    Meanwhile Matthew 25 refers to visiting prisoners ~ again a ministry which by circumstance cannot be linked to the the assembly of the church.
    Since the early church did not have church buildings in their corporate possession. Only after the Emperor Constantine acted to take buildings away form pagans to give to churches over two hundred years or more later do we find “church buildings”.
    Using the passage that “Jesus stands at the door and knocks” seems not to really have anything to do with church buildings!
    My point. I would hope Ministers yea prophets do well to stir up the church and our hearts and minds to NOT neglect them in their daily needs. Further, this call if criminal or criminal-like (I Corinthians 6) ought to be conducted by the wiser, cooler heads among the church – if I understand Paul. Otherwise Paul told Timothy to treat the Elders with respect as one does a father (ABBA).
    I am behind your challenges of books and their authors generally. I think that in useful. When remarks are directed at churches and their leaders I counsel caution and love.
    Blessings

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    • Agent X · July 8

      There are a number of things I want to say in response to this comment, but I am pressed for time and most of them will have to wait.

      But the top thing I want to say is this:

      I truly respect this comment – THIS challenge to my post (any of my offerings here) is BIBLICAL. It is biblical and thoughtful both. That gives me great cause for pause. It is one of the main kinds of engagement this blog seeks.

      I am not infallible. I know that.

      But I am not impressed with rebuttals that cannot take root in God’s Word. What does God say about these things? Where does his word differ with me? SHOW ME THAT!

      I am fully aware that we might still disagree about any given point. That can happen, and probably will at least some of the time. But when you can’t even refer to Scripture to refute the critique I bring, your position is weak. This one is strong. And I really appreciate that.

      Thanx!

      However, this comment leaves more unsettled that settled, to my mind, and I want to engage it more. But that will have to keep for the time being.

      For now, let me ask this:

      Do you think the current state of affairs between the modern church and the poor (esp as we find them in Lubbock) were arrived at through this kind of thinking? Or do you think we got here by other means – perhaps by not attending to God’s love for the poor?

      I surely want to avoid giving the impression that LOVE is not a priority for me. And I wonder if even this very biblical rebuttal doesn’t act like a search for a loophole to get out of showing God’s love to the poor.

      But I will leave it with that for the moment….

      Thanx!

      Like

    • Anonymous · July 9

      Thanx for your patience with me in responding to this comment further. It has been a busy day (or two), and I have not been free enough to devote time to clear thinking, and certainly not writing. But I will try now (very, early morning).

      As I said above, I really appreciate how biblical and thoughtful this comment is.

      I have somewhat of a grid – a filter – through which I sort through things, and this comment triggers a lot more of it than most. I have found myself confronting church leaders who either can’t say anything biblically oriented at all, or who offer one or two biblical ideas that don’t seem to be relevant. I hope I don’t dis any Bible reference, actually, because when we cite God’s Word, we are, I trust, making an effort to listen to what he says.

      That said, just because you cite a passage does not mean you understand what you are saying and/or are applying it in the way God himself would intend for it. And this phenom is somewhat universal. We all risk handling a passage poorly. God is gracious with us, I think, and I sense he always intended us to grow spiritually which suggests there is something OKAY about this phenom, but I am sure it’s okayness relies on humility. Even the greatest academic theologians (certainly the ones I admire most) tell us there are parts of God’s word they don’t understand, and parts they misunderstand but don’t know it.

      This doesn’t mean the whole process of reading, hearing, absorbing, and living by God’s Word is a crap shoot. Not at all. But the phenom in and of itself says I need to have humility about my assertions and respect for others assertions. But we still must proceed making our cases based on the merits. And it is possible to come to differing conclusions by honest, humble means. I suspect those differences too will be worked out over time – given a long enough timeline – or worked out in the Eschaton.

      I hope I am making clear, now, how I process things in these kinds of discussions generally. I read a lot of theology books, and I learn a lot from them. They tend to be very biblical. The conservative theologians I tend to read basically always start with Scripture and develop thoughts based on it, rather than develop thoughts and merely pepper them with a few verses of Scripture that SEEM to have bearing in order to lend weight to their thoughts. This still doesn’t insure agreement or even rightness, but it is the direction I value. And it sure beats listening to/reading what Farmer Brown thinks about how the world works – even if Farmer Brown is a pretty interesting guy!

      So, after confronting church leaders – most of whom quickly reach a point where they just silently stare at me blinking and not knowing what to say – it is refreshing to find a challenge to my thoughts that actually goes to Scripture and develops challenging thoughts using passages that really seem to have bearing on the subject, and not just one or two quips lifted out of context either, but real developed thoughtful Bible passages.

      This I REALLY respect and want to honor. And I hope my remarks have done that now.

      Now, with all that respect and honor explained, I want to listen to your case with an open mind and heart to verify if I have missed something here in my own thought developments. I didn’t get where I am today by NOT repenting! No. I got hear after listening to others make better sense of life, love, and God’s Word than I was on my own, and then by heeding the direction they gave me, AND THEN in part by my own searching and discovery which also leads to repentance.

      You ask about Luke’s depiction of the care the church gives to the Greek widows in Acts 6, and point out that the elders, the decision makers, put this in the hands of others to handle AND that it seems to be handled outside the worship assembly. And then you relate that to my observations that the church today seems to love the poor with a ten foot pole.

      I think you raise a good point – insofar as these widows need is met outside the worship assembly. Some meals are not being eaten as an assembly. It would seem that some are (surely we both believe the church comes together for the Eucharist). Nevertheless there are enough meals happening outside this assembly that these ladies who have come to rely on the church are going hungry.

      I don’t see how this bears on the church vis-à-vis Lubbocks homeless though.

      I see the church of Lubbock deploying people who represent government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and blendings of these, to feed the hungry, for which I thank God (I am sure I said that above), but precious little is done by the church itself in this regard. And this is especially manifest when you go to the assembly and partake Eucharist and see 95% or more of the congregation is white, middle-class and hardly a homeless person in sight. In the Acts 6 passage, the elders call for the appointment of men to serve on their behalf, and then they bless them. The elders are not the church and the deacons the nonprofit ministry in that passage. So I don’t see how that applies. But as for the part where the feeding is not all happening in the assembly, I can see your point. But, I never imagined, even if I gave the impression, that the church would be assembled for every meal and that the homeless would be included every time.

      However, in Acts 2 & 4, we see the Jerusalem church selling everything and distributing (a very communist idea) the goods and wealth among the whole church. I am not at all clear that any other churches did this or were required to do it. But I am clear that it is right, good, and acceptable to God to do it, but its an idea hardly any of us in Lubbock are even willing to entertain. But if we did, I am sure those of us HAVES would become deeply vulnerable, if not downright poor, and the poor would gain so much! And the only way for life to continue in that scenario is if we all learned to LOVE and TRUST one another in our vulnerability – AND THAT actually is the goal (or right there with it!).

      As for Matt. 25 vis-à-vis the assembly…

      I am aware that Matt 25 is addressed ostensibly to “the nations” as opposed to the church (not sure if this is the point your were going after), but I find it extremely reductionist to drive that wedge there for multiple levels/layers of reasons.

      First off, Matthew’s Gospel seems to be fit for Jewish consumption primarily. Not exclusively, but primarily… Nevertheless, it is the church’s book, and as such is the Word of God to the church made up of “the nations”.

      And even IF that notion is deemed lacking, there are still other levels and layers at work here that insure it’s address to us anyway. For starts, Jesus claims that poor person IS HIM. That needy person IS HIM. How do you want Jesus treated? The other side of the coin of who is doing the treatment is the fact that the one being treated in whatever fashion is him! (This has huge implications for Image Bearing Theology).

      And THEN there is another line of thought in which why on earth would Jesus put a standard of behavior out there for The NATIONS that he doesn’t expect from his own church? Is it NOT okay with him for the “world” to mistreat him, but it is okay if the church does??? That doesn’t even compute.

      So, I think that even if there is some technical sense in which Jesus is not addressing the church here, there still is no way the church can afford to ignore it and not heed it.

      That said, there is still the assembly matter… the gathering. And this is the distinction I think you were making before, so I expect it is the one you reinforce here now.

      But I am not seeing why this distinction matters. I don’t recall every suggesting that the whole church had to be gathered in one place to meet the needs of the poor at all times. Its not like the whole assembly has to meet down at the jail together to visit the prisoners at once in order for the church to be there. No. The church can send missionaries there like delegates. And I would imagine the desire would be to bring the prisoner to the next assembly for worship and Eucharist upon his release! (We could say the same for the poor and homeless.)

      Then as to church buildings (and especially Rev. 3:20 vis-à-vis church buildings).

      True… The earliest church did not have church buildings, and so the picture of Jesus knocking on a church house door would not be pictured by them. Fair enough. It is archaic (or actually falsely contemporary) to create that image.

      BUT… we have church buildings now. Why? Constantine???? Probably, and a host of problems that crop up with Constantine too.

      For good or for ill, we have them. AND we all too easily equate the building with the church – even if just functionally. It is our cultural expression of “church” like it or now. And artists make a lot of it. Poets do too. And so it is fair game for prophets as well… Why not?

      What door do you think Revelation 3:20 has in mind? The door of the HOME where a church meets? The door of your heart??? Sure. Why not? And how does splitting this hair about buildings take anything away from the image of Jesus knocking on a locked up church house door? Is this building devoted to him? They shouldn’t we open the door to him when he knocks?

      This is how I use the passage, and I think it is all but self-evident actually. In fact, I think it is only slightly, very slightly NOT. And thus it creates IMPACT when it comes home to roost.

      I hope I have adequately accounted for the questions you raise, the challenges you raise from your understanding of Scripture here. I am sure I missed something, and if I did, I am open to further considerations.

      I cannot help but say that I see the church, in biblical terms too I

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      • Agent X · July 9

        Woah…

        I had a computer glitch there that almost cost me the whole comment response!

        I was able to salvage MOST of it, but lost a little at the beginning and the end. But I was making a long response, perhaps too long for a comment.

        Let me try to wrap up and perhaps revisit with a whole post another time.

        I want to say that I see the church in biblical terms as the very Body of Jesus. This notion, to my mind (however I don’t find others making much with it) has me picturing Jesus in the Gospels preaching, feeding, healing, AND YES CONFRONTING, and dying all as part of his mission. Thus I think the Body of Christ can and should study on all that to try to imagine how an assembly does that – a group together. And I certainly think that being together all in one place at one time is important to the extent that it can be done, but I also think that the church in Corinth likely gathered in more than one home. And likewise the others in other towns too.

        A very important distinction is that they did not divide up based on splits (or to the extent they did, it was something to correct). So they didn’t divide up between those who follow after Paul and others Apollos, and others Jesus and so forth. Today, we do, and do so shamelessly. What is Baptist? What is Methodist? What is Presbyterian? and so forth? And in recent times we do COWBOY church! WHAT IS THAT??? Is it even church?

        No. This is a huge mistake and hardly anyone cares about it.

        I understand that we are just too deep in to simply make a few remarks about it, get people to think different, and we just all repent and fix it next week.

        I think God can do that, but we cant.

        And so I am prepared to live with the tensions of this stuff. But I also am prepared to confront it. And I think that happens all through the New Testament. Nearly every letter Paul writes he addresses something going wrong in the church, and frequently enough confronts it harshly and/or threatens to do so. The letters to the churches in Revelation all confront the church as well. Jesus confronts the temple, the Pharisees, and pretty much all of the “religious” establishment in this harsh way. He confronts his own disciples harshly. All this is biblical. And sometimes the harshness is really shrill too.

        Thus I see confronting the church today as part of that too.

        Additionally, since I see the body of Jesus and what he does in the Gospels as seeds in the ground of the church’s imagination for how to be and act, I look at passages like Luke 14 and find us confronted there. Why did we have an assembly, a Eucharist, and yet no one COMPELLED the poor, the lame, the broken and all to come in? Why is it that my church hosts parties in a black neighborhood to honor the cops? I can easily imagine hosting a party where both the black and the blue lives matter, but why the blue lives in a black neighborhood? What peace and love were we thinking we were bringing? Why does my church care so much for the poor and needy that we host a fancy fundraiser gala and bring in some hifalutin guest speaker from the TV (not a preacher either, btw, but a secular celebrity just to compound things) and charge $50 a ticket to come hear this guy speak so we can send the money to the 501c3 across town so they can supposedly host the poor THERE? Doesn’t James tell us not to show special honor to the rich guy while dissing the poor? And isn’t that exactly what my CHURCH does when they raise money for the POOR? And all of that is a smokescreen for the 501c3, which now has a million dollar budget to CARE for “these people” so we don’t have to, but when the cameras from the TV station aren’t rolling, the 501c3 people actually kick the poor out into the streets to freeze all night!

        Should I just lecture a copy of the book we used to help us create all this elaborate mess? Or should I do like John, Paul, Jesus and others and say something to God’s people about it?

        And when they actually tell me that they WILL NOT LISTEN, that my voice has NO VOLUME and so forth, do you think I managed to pick on the wrong people?

        Hmmm…

        Yeah… I think we have a 10 foot pole kinda love going on here, and it aint from Jesus.

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  4. Child Of God · July 8

    I helped a few homeless people in my life, I care and even had a couple stay a few days in my home. One left in the middle of the night the other actually was one dy and he also left. I took a girl away from the rain with a little tent with my dad and husband and that is the one the left. I love people but, i also being hurt badly by a couple of them I think I told you but there are many people that care. M Spiritual son in California has Ministry only for homeless people. He cares as well.People is people.All children of God.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. laceduplutheran · July 9

    Our congregation is at a crossroads – are we going to follow Jesus or be comfortable. Tonight there will be a presentation by a group of disciples on the idea of using a 2 acre field the church has, next to the parking lot of the church for ministry – to build a village of tiny homes for the homeless. Do we make a bold decision to follow Christ, or do we run to the shelter of the 10 foot pole? A couple of our homeless families we work with at Flying J have asked if we would consider opening the doors of the church to use the basement for temporary housing. I’m bringing it to council tonight. Do we make a bold decision to follow Christ, or do we run to the safety of the 10 foot pole? In both cases, people who aren’t a part of the church are coming to the church to seek help, to hear Good News. People who aren’t regular church goers are hearing about the idea of the homes and are drawn to it – bringing workers and contacts and resources to make it happen. Jesus is on the move, bringing people to serve – to experience an encounter with Jesus, where Jesus is. And where is Jesus? With the outsiders of society – the poor, the homeless, the drug addict, the victim of trafficking. That is where we go. The question is whether the rest of the congregation comes along. Prayers are greatly appreciated for this evening.

    Liked by 1 person

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