Max Lucado in one his first books tells the story of a woman fighting an uphill battle with alcoholism. During that journey she tried to return to a small church where she had spiritual roots. But unfortunately she hears the gossip in the parking lot that was not meant for her ears. “What is that alcoholic doing here?” Lucado relays that the woman got back in her car and never returned. Well that is not exactly true. Her next visit to the same church was in a casket at her own funeral.
In stark contrast to that incident, I heard a story last night that was truly inspiring. We hosted a speaker that serves a church that is doing what I think churches are supposed to do. When the neighborhood around this particular congregation in a large city began to change, attendance declined. A part of the city that would have been characterized as upscale in the 1950’s began to decline. Businesses closed. Crime increased.
The church was faced with a decision. They could sell their building and move out to the more affluent outlying areas, or they could take a risk and stay. They chose to stay. Their choice to remain was prompted by a desire to reach out to the now low income neighborhood that surrounded the church’s property. They have successfully done that for about 10 years now.
At one point in this 10 year period, The Salvation Army put in a rehabilitation center for women struggling with alcoholism. A lady at the newly opened center ventured out on a Sunday morning and showed up for worship services at the above mentioned church. She was fortunate. There were no local gossipers aroound to greet her. The first person to spot her was Jan. (I happen to know Jan. Everyone should have the opportunity to meet her.) Jan is the real thing. She is as genuine as they come. Jan introduced herself to the brave lady from the rehab center and proceeded to introduce her to everyone else. Her approach went like this: “I want you to meet my friend, Lisa…” (Not her real name) She never mentioned the rehab center. She just said…”I want you to meet my friend Lisa.” I wonder how that made that lady feel?
Jan’s single act of kindness prompted an entire ministry focused of reaching out to ladies going through the Salvation Army program across the street from the church. Dozens of lives at the rehab location were touched. An untold number of families affected by the ladies staying there were impacted by the efforts of a church that decided to stay.
I was inspired by the story of this very special church last night. I have in turn been asked to speak at a training event they are hosting in October. The church is now partnering with their city officials on a huge effort that is going to serve victims of domestic violence. My assigned topic is: “How to Effectively Minister to Crime Victims.” What can I possibly offer a church that decided a long time ago to stay put, so they could serve their neighbors? I am humbled to be in their presence. And I suspect I will learn more from them they will from me.
My question for all of us is: What single act of kindness can we initiate today that will turn into something huge? And by the way, there is no need to ask what that alcoholic is doing here. She is here for us to serve in the name of Christ. No more questions needed…