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?