The first time it happened I was 14 years old. A man came into the church on a Saturday afternoon at the end of choir rehearsal with disheveled clothing, matted hair, and his body smelled as if it had been doused with alcohol. He wanted to talk to the Pastor. See, he had been up all night trying to get wasted, but no matter how much he drank he could not get drunk. He told us that something led him to the church. Despite this man’s pleas to see the Pastor (who was in a ministerial meeting), the people around him said, “You need to go clean yourself up before you come talking to our Pastor.” After twenty minutes of begging to talk to someone about “what the Lord was messing” with him about, the man turned around and walked out the door.
The second time it happened was tonight at 35 years old. I went to celebrate my Pastor’s 49th birthday at a surprise party at the church. On my way in, a man walking down the street asked, “Are you having Bible study tonight?” I replied, “No, but you are welcomed to come in and I’m sure someone would be happy to study with you one on one.” As we walked through the door, I immediately motioned for one of the Deaconess of the church. The gentleman was very friendly and introduced himself to several people who were hurriedly getting ready for the big surprise. I privately spoke to the Deaconess and explained that Mr. Anthony wanted to engage in Bible study tonight. The response was, “There is no Bible study tonight. Let me go get one of the Deacons to talk to him.” Fifteen minutes later the man was gone.
If the church is not doing the work of reaching out to the lost, the hurting, the brokenhearted, the confused, the thirsty, then what exactly are we doing? Not having the predominant gift of evangelism is no excuse for not sharing the Gospel or being an instrument of righteousness for someone who is desperately seeking Him. “It's news I'm most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God's powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else! God's way of putting people right shows up in the acts of faith, confirming what Scripture has said all along: "The person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives" (Romans 1:16-17 MSG). It seems to me, that we are supposed to be giving Life to the lifeless.
By the way, age, fear of approaching indigent people, deferring the responsibility of being prepared to give a reason for the hope we have in Christ (I Peter 3:15) to someone else, or being too busy to see what really matters to God (Luke 10:41-42) is no justification for not fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) either. We keep proclaiming that the world needs Jesus, but we do so in a way that is powerless and cowardly. It is not about cleaning oneself up before we can talk to him. Every Christian I know was accepted by Jesus in a filthy, messed up state. It is not even about preparing for parties. But it is about preparing souls to see the King. The world needs Jesus and as Ambassadors of Christ (Ephesians 6:20) we are to drop all the unnecessary stuff we carry around (fear, pride, programs, etc.) and listen for the voices calling for the Savior.
Father, please forgive me for the times that I have allowed opportunities to pass me by to be a witness of the Gospel. Forgive me for inaction, collusion through silence, and the false sense of security of believing that someone else should do what you called me to do. Help me, Father to be more bold, courageous, and weak enough to allow your strength to be made perfect in my life. I ask these things in your precious Son Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.