Today I had the opportunity to sit in a local church that was distributing assistance to those in need. When I drove up the place was packed with cars. People were coming in and out, talking among themselves and eating and drinking refreshments that were provided. Honestly, it looked like most churches, most Sundays.
I selected a seat at the end of the hall holding a sleeping baby while the woman with me went to get her number. She was number 51. An hour later she learned that she made the cut because someone else did not qualify for help and was given an application. An hour later they had reached #11 in the screening process. I left at 10:30 to take care of other things and they had started handing out checks to #11s and screening #24.At 12:30 I received a message she had been helped.
On a side note to all the churches who do this type of ministry, a big opportunity was missed. While ministry may have happened as she went back for screening, the church really misses the opportunity of 50+ people sitting there in the hallway waiting to get assistance. A captive audience, with a definite need, and receptive to help. It was a great place to build relationship!
While I sat there visiting the young lady and playing with the baby, we shared conversation with an older man there and a gentleman with a familiar face that struck up a conversation as we tried to figure out the connection. I mean I was just there half the time and can tell you work history, current needs, marital issues, where they live, legal history, where they have attended church, and current connections of the two others who joined our conversation and I was not trying to gather information. The closest thing I saw to a ministry was when I sneezed and the gentleman said "God bless you." He jokingly told me that would be $5 for the blessing, but we laughed.
Anyway back to the point of my blog. As I sat there waiting and listening to the stories a comment was made that really woke me up. Please understand I have worked in public welfare for thirteen years - I know the poverty, abuse, drugs, legal issues and mental health issues. I deal with them daily. But three things were said by these old timers that really stuck me to the core. The comments were:
1) "I have been doing this (Seeking help) for seventeen years" - This man worked, had a home, a family. He had made some poor choices that hurt his employ-ability, felony charges. There were some things he could change to help his situation a little - he had more animals than he needed, but overall he was struggling to survive. He is healthy, his wife is ill. He works a minimum wage job because he is not longer eligible to work for the companies that pay more because of his background, and he can't make ends meet. For seventeen years he has lived this way. He was born and raised in this community - nature vs nurture we failed.
2) While looking at a dated picture of the church congregation no one was smiling. There was discussion of this, and I pointed out a little boy in the picture smiling. "They were the real Christians." Probing further: "They were too serious to smile, but were filled with the Spirit and knew how to make things happen. They are all gone now."
3) "Now Christian's are smiley, wave and Say "God bless you and I love you with the love of the Lord." and then walk on by not caring if you are in need. They don't want to help, they say things and don't follow though, and don't really seem to care. They say "Come by anytime." but when you do, they say "oh not right now", or pretend they are not at home."
So I left there, and pondered on the comments throughout the day. Until prayer meeting tonight - Awakening. We have been praying for an awakening in the Northwest Arkansas region. For THE CHURCH to awaken.
Ephesians 5:8-14 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit[b]is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says:“Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”
What I felt in my spirit is that just as I thought that 'I knew the issues' that people were facing, I hadn't even scratched the surface with my statistics and resources. The Church thinks we are awake, but we are sleeping.
It is like when you dream that you are awake and it is so real that you don't realize you are sleeping. That is how the church is, we think we see the things that are going on around us, that we are meeting the needs of the congregation and community, but we are not even scratching the surface. We must awaken. We must walk in the Light. We must expose the work of darkness. It is time for the Church to awaken to the things we have allowed to take place on our watch.