Those We Leave Behind

 I seem to be drawn to those that have been overlooked, marginalized or forgotten.

 I really, honestly, don’t care about the “boy’s club” I don’t care about TBN or Charisma. I don’t care about fitting in with your group, your dogma or your religious preferences.

 I do care about all of the things that the church seems to have forgotten about. Maybe a part of that is because the church has never been my church.

That is not to say that I am an “out-of-church Christian”, I am certainly not. I have always just happened to be someone constantly on the outside looking in.

 I can remember one time when I was a runaway in Phoenix, Arizona. I had just turned 16 years old and took the 300 dollar car that I had and left with my friend. To fund the trip, my friend stole a bunch of stuff from his step-father and we pawned it.

 When we got to Phoenix, we knew no one. We looked for the local scene there and didn’t find too much. By the second night, I had been pulled over and my car was impounded. Instead of taking us in for no insurance, no registration and vagrancy, we were dropped off by the cops on Van Buren Street at 1 am with no money and no vehicle. Big fun.

 We walked all night and in the afternoon found ourselves in a suburb on Thanksgiving Day. And almost 20 years later I can still vividly recall the feeling of standing on a curb in a pretty suburb, looking through the window at a family having Thanksgiving dinner when I had nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat.

 I feel like that sometimes in regards to the church. That I am still standing on that sidewalk watching the people, knowing that their life is not my life.

I have always been drawn to the disenfranchised, dispossessed and disillusioned. And there are plenty of them out there to busy myself with, believe me. We are surrounded by the invisible, the lonely lurkers who are not seen. And they need Jesus, regardless of their station. They need care, self respect and viable options for their future. They need instruction and they need knowledge to accompany the spiritual food they are starving for.

Over the years we have found ourselves in the barrios of New Mexico, the slaughterhouse towns of Minnesota, the dying mountain towns of Pennsylvania, the Indian reservations of South Dakota, the inner city of Chicago, the rural farmtowns of Iowa and the streets and hospices of Houston.

 We have been shocked by the apathy of the church so many times that we have grown quite jaded. When we work with squatters in Chicago and discover that there are 5500 homeless youth there but only 200 available beds in shelters, yet the church will not concern itself with the problem, it is easy to get frustrated and tired.

 We have been faced with the problem of watching theTally-heads, the 8 and 9 year old kids who take dollar bills into the dark alleys of Uptown to buy a thinner-dipped rag to get high with, then wander drunkenly down the streets, oblivious to the world and quite invisible to the church. Little bodies that can no longer think are many times kidnapped for use in underground kiddie porn or murdered in an abandoned tenement with no one to shed a tear for them at all.

 The Natives on the reservations, drunk and diseased as a lifestyle. In the county where we lived, there was an 85 percent alcoholism rate. It was common to see 11 year old girls pregnant from a night of terrifying rape, usually at the hands of a drunken relative. Ten to fifteen people living in two rooms, grandmothers taking care of the continuous line of children birthed to mothers who do not care and have no way to properly raise the children, and the wheel turns on and on and on. And faced with the awful trauma, the church sent food to an already obese people as an answer.

 Over and over again we have stood helpless in the face of dire need. And over and over again we find the church unwilling to do anything at all about it.

 And after screaming ourselves hoarse for the church to awake from its sugar coma to no avail, only one solution makes any real sense: to become the church on our own terms and among our own kind and to meet the needs that we see with abandon.

 To plant churches in the inconvenient places, to raise up preachers discipled ourselves and to evangelize in the way that we feel led, not needing permission or approval from anyone. To organize into a group that will not shirk the responsibility and will never break and run when faced with outrageous odds.

 We must reemploy the tactics of the Methodist circuit riders, planting where there is a need and not caring if it is rural or how many show up for services. We must train those that are saved to take the message to the world. We must put evangelism first here in this country, using tents and street ministry to win those who are not even sought by the traditional church.

 We must take responsibility for the state of our generation and win the lost at any cost.

 I will not be tormented by spiritual impotence anymore, friends. I will not miss one more invitation to third world nations because the church does not care. I will not see brothers suffer in obscurity because they are not marketable.

I can not live with the hauntings any longer, the ghosts of the faces of those we have left behind, the need still there, the pain still there.

 This must become our moment as the outcast church, our time to band together and to do all that is in our hearts to do. We must find a way because if we do not, no way will ever be found. The need is the claim on you and I.

 And truthfully, what better place than right here and what better time than right now?



5 thoughts on “Those We Leave Behind

  1. Amen to that, I remember when I was 13 and no place to go. My sister turned me away and I was on the run from reform school. It was about 40 degrees outside and I found a place in the bushes next to a boarding house. God Bless the old woman who owned the place. She found me about 3 in the morning and put me in a bed. People cared back then! It was a time to care for your family and the ones who needed help. Neighbors helped neighbors, we didn’t have welfare or food shelves. People cared for each other. The only homeless people I can remember were the old hobo’s who chose that life.

    Go back to a different time when people cared, when people had compassion, when you took care of the old at home, when people believed that through Christ all things were possible, you bet!

    This country has gone downhill for 50 years and at what price? We used to be a strong nation of God fearing people that believed we were the best educated, most prosperous, nation in the world. Look out America, we now borrow from overseas to pay our debts, fight wars in foreign countries when we have a need for such major change in our own. We can’t be the police for everyone, we can expect to change any other countries when we can’t do it here.

    James is right, the war starts here! The masses are fooled by religious doctrine. Tent revival? There should be one in every town and byway in this country. People need to hear the truth!

  2. You can give without loving

    But you can’t love without giving.

    If the “church” truly followed the teachings of Jesus, we would be changing the world.

    People are marching into Hell, and the church doesn’t even notice or really care. Very sad situation indeed.

    I don’t see how someone can say they love Jesus, and then do nothing to reveal his love to a lost and dying world.

    The American “church” has become a sponge and becoming like its enviroment. Self-centered and lazy, we have become like the vine that we were grafted into, self-absorbed, forgetful, of where it is that we came from. Or the price that was paid, freedom isn’t free, it cost God His only Son.

  3. Amen and Amen!! If we don’t go, who will? We cannot continue to sit around and wait to see if someone else is going to do something to make a difference. Jesus said “Go..”, He didn’t say “wait and see if someone else does something.”

    It deeply saddens my heart to know that there are so many lost out there that are heading stright to hell! It is up to us to reach them. I have sat by far too long and ignored God’s calling, afraid of the unknown, afraid of the “what if’s”. But i tell you brother, i have reached a point in my walk where i must be obedient, no matter the cost. There is just no other option. The thought of being outside the will of God is far more traumatic than fear of failure. I cringe at the thought of the blood on my hands for the souls that were not reached because of my dis-obedience. NO MORE!!

    James, you are continually in our prayers! Keep bringing them in brother! Pray for God’s favor for us in Idaho. We will chat soon!

  4. I agree with all of you, for sure. Things have been in my heart for years, pieces of a vision really. Yet even when I only saw them out of the corner of my spiritual eye, they have never left, which is a good indicator of divine inspiration.
    Faith is at times having the audacity to believe God when there are no clear indicators before you. Gee, maybe that is what it means to be an overcomer, eh?
    I for one have determined to push past the barricades that the lack erects in front of me, believing God even when it looks as if all hope is gone and just jumping in the deep end.
    I figure that even if only half works out, I am still doing well.

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