power in a parking lot
Yesterday, I had a Jesus moment.
That moment when everything around you, all the stuff you are trying to do for Him is stripped away and your eyes are open to what ministry looked like to Jesus.
I’ve seen it before. Many times. On the other side of the world. Healing. Feeding. Preaching to crowds.
And I’ve seen it twice now, in the parking lot of a church.
And I wonder if you’ve ever seen it. Because we don’t do this.
We make it so complicated. Discuss and let outreach die in committee. Allow naysayers and negativity to squelch the passion for reaching the “marginalized” in our community.
When we finally do set out to reach them, we set up barriers — give them hoops to jump through.
We set the pace of recovery and give up or write off.
We disagree on a point of doctrine and pass up the opportunity to work together and show we are Christians by our love.
We look for an ROI on our community healing investment, forgetting that only 1 in 10 lepers returned to thank Jesus.
And we are missing it.
Imagine a church that looks out at their struggling community — joblessness, broken homes, addiction, hunger — and says, we have the answer.
Not just the words.
I’ve seen it.
I arrive around 4 pm, and see a dozen or more people — men, women and children — setting up canopies and tables in the church parking lot. They haul boxes of food, donations from the community. From dentist’s offices, food distributors. Others from the church were working before them — they’ve sorted and packed the donations into boxes holding a week’s supply of staples for a family.
Nearly 80 boxes are hauled out to the parking lot.
And then people gather. Some look haggard and worn. A mom who doesn’t want me to take her picture, but will talk to me. Telling me about real hunger in her family. Right here. In America.
I talk to a woman who lived in her truck for seven months. She looks lovely. You would never, ever guess if you saw her… I have to ask her questions. It’s my job. And she catches her breath when she tells how she found this church at Thanksgiving. She was hungry. And they do that thing — the making a feast and going out into the highways and biways and inviting in.
Nearly a hundred are gathered in this hot parking lot by the time the preaching begins. And they all sit, quietly listening. Drinking in words of hope and life.
And I talk to the people and am amazed. They are there not just for the food that they could really get from any foodbank.
They want to hear about the God who loves them. Who hasn’t forgotten them. Who sees and cares. They want to be prayed for. To know they aren’t alone.
So Eric preaches. And Estelle translates. And there is nodding of heads because he’s telling them about David, who was type-cast as a shepherd and no one would ever guess he’d defeat a giant. And Eric names the giants in their lives. Alcoholism, abuse, drugs, unemployment, poverty, hunger.
Some of them go to the church now. In fact, since they started this outreach five years ago, more than 200 have joined the congregation.
I watch the scene. And the parking lot looks a whole lot like Galilee.
* * * * *
Eric will be the first to say this is a tough job. That it takes a lot of people. That they are doing this outreach together. Although he is passionate and fiery, he could not do it without the people willing to pack boxes and move them and pray.
It takes a church.
And I think about the bystanders in Jesus’ day. The naysayers. The ones with the theological differences. The questioning of whether this person was in trouble because he sinned or did his parents.
And I wonder where we are. Who we’ve become. And what we’re missing.