How Much Can A Church Do?
Well, it's been quite awhile since I've been able to be with you folks, so I thought I'd catch you up on what has been going on here in Jimmy-world.
After the car wreck in the previous post, I finally recovered from the injuries and all the glass has finally worked out of my arm and scalp. I've purchased a new vehicle that my family approved was not a rollover risk and even though I miss the size of an SUV, I've enjoyed being back in a car again. The new post-retirement job is going well. A picture of my church is above and I'm working as the Administrative Assistant to the Minister of Administration. It's a lot of work, but with a church the size of Salem, there is a lot of variety each day to keep things interesting.
There's one area that I didn't really know was part of the job until I started (isn't it funny how some things get left out of the preliminary discussions?). This is to be the first contact for people seeking benevolence from the church. There isn't a day that goes by that someone doesn't call or come by needing assistance with housing, utilities, automobile repair or gasoline, clothing, food, or any number of other needs. It is a sad commentary on our society that we have to first determine whether these people are legitimately in need or not, but it has to be done. Perhaps in smaller towns, this is not a concern, but in the metropolitan Atlanta area (and especially being close to Interstate 75), churches get quite a number of scammers. Thank goodness that our church doesn't receive too many. The majority of people are genuinely in need of care and help. They have been laid off their jobs, many are still unable to return to homes damaged by the recent hurricanes, others are just overstretched with their obligations, many want only to find food or clothing for their children. It hurts my heart many times to sit with them and hear their stories of need and it being an area in which we as a church cannot help. If so, I refer them to other organizations in the area which can and will help, but I still have the feeling that we as a church have failed in our mission.
The purpose of the Church (in my "non-theologically educated" opinion), is to meet people where they are, to love them as Christ loves us, and then to begin to reach them for Him. How else can a hungry person know about the Bread of Life that can fill them? How else can a person who is about to lose their home know about the Shelter in the time of storms? How can a child who is regularly beaten or abused by their parents understand about a loving Father? I struggle with this each time I talk with someone.
My day is interrupted and my 'job' falls behind each time the phone rings or someone comes in for assistance and if I have to turn them away or refer them, my heart is burdened. But, for the ones that we can help (and there are many), the Joy in my heart is full that for this one person God's people have not let them down. I try to always encourage them to become involved in some church somewhere in their area and always try to pray with them for God's Hope and protection in their struggles. Yep, my frustrated minister wannabe thoughts are coming out. We should never become so legalistic in "doing church" that we become too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.
I hope and pray that someday all churches everywhere; Christian, Jewish and Muslim will be able to do as Paul requested in I Corinthians 9:22 - "I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ."
And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy (and I promise that I'll be back to more regular writing!)