Report From The Road (Welcome To Church; Keep Out)

So, I had to take a brief trip to Colorado, and without going into any of the itinerary, let me just say that I haven’t visited my home state much in recent years, and it’s been at least 6 years since I visited Pueblo and Colorado Springs.  I have been aware that these cities deal with issues of homelessness for years, but I rarely, if ever, saw it there with my own eyes.  But much like I reported two months ago after my brief trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, I feel overwhelmed with the mobs of homeless beggars I see with my own eyes just while passing through.  I’m in town hardly 30 minutes, and not even poking around in the barrio or industrial areas, but merely running through a drive-thru between the filling station and the supermarket a few blocks away from the interstate, and there they are – BEGGARS EVERYWHERE!

I am grieved by the development.  Just so many.  I grew up passing through these towns, doing business in them, and thinking of them as wonderful places to have fun and see the best of God’s creation.  These may not be my HOMETOWN, but they are still HOME to me.  Towns of my HOMELAND.  Places you send post cards from when you visit, but now overrun with HOMELESS.

Sad.

And then…

Wouldn’t you know it.  I have babies in the car with me getting cranky while I am waiting for Mrs. Agent X to complete her appointment.  I have an idea.  I will run through the drive-thru and get some French fries and a drink for them, then pull over under some shade while we wait.  It shouldn’t be even an hour before we are rolling again, and I don’t want to unload everybody, chase kids around, break a sweat, put them all back in their seats, pack the car back up, and then roll.

See the difference?

Yeah.  It’s a cheap idea, but it should keep everybody smiling while we wait, I think.  But then I think about all the beggars on the lot hitting up traffic for loose change.  I don’t have any.  I got babies in plenty and no loose money.  Suddenly I think I need to NOT park under a shade tree around HERE.  I will spend all my time dealing with beggars (which normally I would love to do, ironically) at the expense of the urchins I have with me already.  And anyway, the foster agency would probably frown on me taking the foster kids to the streets in ministry, so I start looking for a shady stop nearby, but away from the begging action.

That’s when I saw it.

Just a couple blocks up the road.  A church, and not just any church but one of MY KIND.  A “church of Christ” denomination.  I belong to THAT kind!  That’s MY people!!!  If I showed up there for Sunday worship and told them I live in Lubbock and worship with the church of Christ there, I don’t doubt for one minute that I would meet people who know people I know if they don’t already know me.

And look!  They have shade trees!  I don’t need much from these brothers, just 20 minutes peace in a shady parking spot… right?

Right.

So I pull into the lot, crossing two lanes of busy traffic with a left turn.  I was invested by this time.  But as I pulled in the lot, the first thing I saw by way of greeting was a sign telling me it’s “Private Property” and “No Trespassing”, “No Loitering”, and “No Camping”!

Wow!  No wonder there’s no danger of getting mobbed by beggars here!  Suddenly it occurred to me that I was probably just a bit too needy for this bunch myself.  If I were to avail 20 minutes of peace in a shady spot on that lot, it very likely would constitute “trespassing” and “loitering” and if the judge is particularly harsh, they might even get me for “camping”.  I suddenly didn’t feel welcome by this group of Jesus-loving people.  So I u-turned my way right out of the lot.

But as I sat there waiting for an opening in traffic so I could make a left turn onto the busy street and be on my way, making sure not to overly burden Jesus with my needs, I looked up and saw a message on the church marquee which said, “Feel puzzled?  God is your missing peace.”

Clever, don’t you think?

Yeah, and it also occurred to me that I wasn’t going to find my missing peace there at that church.  So I snapped a couple photos and left.

I have an idea that this church problem isn’t just a Lubbock thang.

“Welcome to church!” YES!

Now “KEEP OUT!”  Oh no!

4 comments

  1. T. F. Thompson · September 15

    And then again, you know you didn’t even have to go there to know the result. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Stacey Lynn · September 15

    Wow… makes you wonder what their latest sermon was about!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · September 15

      No kidding.

      And if I were a visiting preacher to that church, I know already what I would preach about.

      I would have this bunch take down the sign that says “Private Property” and all the messages of exclusivity, and put up another saying, “God’s House”, and “You are invited to be here with him,” and maybe even put up on the marquee something like: “If your welcome and the service we provide isn’t the very best it could be, please tell us first, before you tell God. Give us a chance to repent and get it right.”

      Yeah, I had that little experience and it made me feel like I am from Mars or something. For a moment there, I had the brilliant idea that I would be blessed by that church and they would never know it. What a wholesome thought is that??? What if you were a blessing to people even when you didn’t know… when you didn’t even intend it?

      Jesus was passing along one day on his way to heal a sick kid with the child’s anxious father AND so many people of various needy kinds pressing in on him as he came along. I have a hard time imagining how he was able to walk in the direction of the stated ministry goals he was heading for at that moment. But apparently he managed. But along the way, this needy woman having a shameful need, one that would exclude her from joining the assembly at worship next weekend, very humbly yet daringly slipped into the crowd the way an assassin with a dagger might, and touched the hem of his shirt hoping she would get a quick blessing of healing and fade away into the mob unnoticed. And it would have worked except Jesus “felt the power go out of him”.

      God notices these things.

      Here I am a nice, white -looking, middle-class -looking, English speaking, American man in a car that reflects all the values which normally go with all that too. I don’t come presenting any shame at all. I just need a few minutes peace in the shade. It would be more trouble than its worth for me to walk up to the door and ask someone if my plan is okay. It would mean unstrapping 3 toddlers from their seats and chasing them hither and yon WHILE I even asked if it was okay. What if I just fed my kids some fries in the shade about 20 minutes and slipped away thanking God for these people. I would probably go unnoticed.

      But when I saw the sign saying “Private Property”, I immediately understood the connotation was that strangers are in fact NOT welcome, especially needy strangers.

      I really MIGHT have got away with my crime! My image does not match that on the WANTED POSTER at the post office. But I am not substantially any different from those this church seeks to exclude.

      I recognized that the sign about Private Property excludes the bums, but by virtue of that it excludes me too. And the kicker is that it excludes Jesus as well.

      The odd part in this, the part that feels so sinister, is that ANYONE visiting this church – including the regular membership – who ever drives up on that lot and sees that sign (well placed for immediate visibility too), IF THEY STAY AND WORSHIP with that assembly, is self-righteously justifying themselves as worthy to join this assembly and do what they do with them.

      WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT EVERY PERSON WHO IN FACT DOES COME VISIT THERE???

      And if that observation is correct, and if so many Jesus-loving, well-meaning, people can so casually be so self-righteous and self-justifying before God, then I could have too. In fact I probably have that problem in some of my own blindspots.

      Wow! for sure!!!

      Thanx for commenting…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Stacey Lynn · September 15

        I love EVERYTHING about this reply ❤ How true, and WHAT A PREDICAMENT to be in. I spoke with someone in the not so recent past that made a comment, something to the effect of "If I'm too busy GETTING to church to stop and BE the church, then I don't BELONG in church!" I can't help but agree wholeheartedly. My my… I know we have to be careful in this world, but limiting those that come to Him, in whatever form that takes??? You know, every time I think about this scenario, I am reminded of the way the children willingly flocked to Jesus, and those around Him tried to stop them… Jesus rebuked them and said of course they could come!! But aren't new believers (or maybe even those who AREN'T believers) likened to little children? What if signs and thought patterns like those you mention in this post are exactly that? I pray, Lord, point out my sin if I EVER embarass you that way!! In fact, Lord help us all if we ever fall along THAT wayside ❤

        Liked by 1 person

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