This article, disturbing as it is, brought back a bad memory which I’ve never been quite able to put to rest.
For some years in the early-mid 80’s I taught a class of young adults on Sunday morning. They ranged in age from 14-18 yrs old. One of our goals was to spend at least one Saturday a month, or more, walking through the neighborhood and talking face to face with the people–especially young teens. Telling them about our church and class, inviting them to come. It was really exciting, for many in the class had come to know Jesus as Lord recently…and they were “fired up”…ready to tell anyone who would listen, what Jesus did for them, how He changed their lives.
(If you ever find yourself forgetting what your salvation is really all about, hang around a bunch of brand-new young believers for awhile. It’ll all come back to you!)
Anyway, long story short. We ended up one Saturday in the projects about a mile from Church. That’s where we spent that Saturday afternoon–the place was over-run with young children playing outside, who just plain seemed overjoyed at our being there! We talked to many of the parents that day also–inviting them to visit Sunday morning and telling them about Jesus.
Many of these parents ended up giving permission for their children to come to Sunday School, so we made arrangements and picked a spot to pick them up in our old church van the following morning.
We did, they came. About 15 skinny kids, both black and while, marched in with us the next morning. They sure weren’t all dressed up fancy, like regular church folks, but you could tell they were excited to be there.
After class our regular van driver took them home. And we made arrangements for him to pick them up the following Sunday.
Sunday came around and no kids. I got there right before classes began so had no time to talk to the van driver, so just assumed the kids were not at the designated spot when he went to pick them up.
After class and shortly after regular service started, the outer-door opened and in walked these children. See, I found out later that no one went to pick them up–(it wasn’t the drivers fault, he was told not to go) and these children, after waiting, had walked that mile to the Church. I’ll never forget the youngest one–she was around 5, holding onto the hand of an older child of about 8-9. They all stood in the back of the Church, and before I knew what was happening, someone walked back and herded them back outside and into the van, to take them home.
It finally dawned on me, that a certain segment in the Church had been “disturbed” the previous week at them being there, so had talked to the pastor. Who in turn, told the driver not to pick them up.
Folks, I wept for days. And, I will never forget the sense of grieving I felt in my spirit that morning, watching those children being herded out the door. They never returned.
I’m a lot older now–and hopefully wiser and bolder. Today I don’t know what I’d do, but it sure wouldn’t be to just sit there stunned. I learned a hard lesson that day. And so did my class of young ‘fired up’ adults. Their zeal to go out on any more Saturdays, seemed to dry up after that happened.
This story below, like I said, reminded me of that horrible incident. Reading it made me wonder about the youth minister mentioned, and if his ‘incident’ has left him with a dampened zeal and a grieving broken heart.
Dearly Departed: The Separation of Church and Jesus
By: Jim Evans
Several years ago a friend of mine was working as a youth minister for a church that was exuberantly evangelistic. The pastor spoke eloquently and often about “winning the world for Christ.”
Unfortunately, the community around the church was “in transition.” That’s code for white families moving out and people of color moving in.
In spite of that, my friend decided that if the church was going to win the whole world, why not start with their own neighborhood? In a short time, he had encouraged several young people in the community to attend a recreation event held at the church during the week. He eventually persuaded a couple of the teenagers and their mother to attend a Sunday morning service.
When they showed up on the church steps, however, they were greeted by a special usher committee that told them they could not enter. The head usher explained to them that they would probably be more comfortable in a church “of their own kind.”
The mother explained that she and her children had been invited by the youth minister to attend the service. The usher nodded and said, “Yes, I know. He made a mistake.” With that, the small family left
When the youth minister heard what happened, he confronted the usher and demanded an explanation. The usher told him that it was a long-standing position of the church that people of color not attend.
The youth minister was shocked. He could not understand how a church could claim to be evangelistic and eager to win the world to Christ, yet turn the world away when it came to the door. He said to the usher, “Is this the kind of church you think Jesus wants?”
The usher replied, “Jesus doesn’t have anything to do with this.”
And there it is. Not the racism – that’s just a symptom. I am talking about the separation of Jesus from the church. Apparently there are some areas of life that are simply too important to run the risk of Jesus meddling with them.
For instance, a few years back Time magazine ran an article about theologian Stanley Hauerwas and his view on the run up to the war in Iraq. Hauerwas believes that since Jesus taught and practiced nonviolence, the Christian community had a responsibility to resist war, or at least approach it with great reluctance. Because there did not seem to be much reluctance to invading Iraq, did that mean “Jesus doesn’t have anything to do with this”?
Or how about this? In a recent letter to the editor a churchman made the point that Christians have no real responsibility to seek ways to alleviate poverty. All that is required of us is to practice a little charity as we have opportunity. Is that what Jesus taught? Just a little pocket change when we feel the urge? I guess when it comes to issues of substantive economic justice, “Jesus doesn’t have anything to do with this.”
The New Testament has Jesus saying at one point, “Behold I stand at the door and knock.” The preachers I grew up with used to say that the door on which Jesus was knocking was the door to our hearts. Jesus wants to come into our lives and save us.
Later, I learned that the door in question was actually the door to the church. Jesus was on the outside of the church, trying to get in. I wonder what sort of committee he ran into.
James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.
Source, Ethics Daily
I’ve wondered over the years about those children, who all would be any where from 35-40 now. I wonder about these teenagers and their mother in this article above too. What kind of memory they will have of being turned away.
And I also wonder about those in both churches, who did not welcome the poor, needy, and the blind, into what is suppose to be, houses of God. How will they explain their actions, on that day when standing face to face with Jesus?
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord”- Luke 4
When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9