Posts tagged ‘evangelism’

May 7, 2010

Do we encourage street life?

"Do you ever worry that you might encourage street youth by all that you do? I mean…I know it's good to help out, but I've always wanted to ask this. I figured you might know."  This is the question that "David" asked me.  It's one that comes up more frequently from the community than from street kids.  I said, "Frankly, you're probably the expert here. You should tell me. Do the social workers help or not? Do I? I'll tell you what I know but I also want you to tell me what you think." He agreed.

I said, "The social work name for encouraging a destructive behavior is enabling. Social work organizations, religious organizations, and I all worry about it. I get asked about it from potential donors and volunteers almost every week.

"David, if I could change only one thing for those to whom I minister, it would be to introduce them to Jesus Christ. Once you know Jesus, if it's OK with Him for you to live on the street, then it's fine with me. If it's OK with Him for you to drink, then I have no problems. I'm not the judge. I believe that God is so big and so powerful that I can trust him to help make whatever changes a person needs once they get to know Him.

"I provide relief as a way of getting your attention, as a way of getting to know you, as a way of loving you. Frequently I come empty handed; I don't want to be seen as Santa Claus. I want to come and enjoy your company. But, sometimes I get caught up in the stuff and in the numbers. When I do that, I sin; I separate myself from God and take His ministry off course. When I began providing sandwiches on Friday, I promised myself that I would never apologize for not having any or enough. Sometimes I do worry about it. That's a temptation that I feel on an almost daily basis, and it's a problem that I think every organization faces, including the social work ones and the religious ones. What do you say, David? Are we enabling the kids or not?"

He said, "I've been on and off the streets for 15 years. I'm older than many of these kids out here. There is no question that you make it easier for me to stay out here. I knew you'd be down here with food today. But if you didn't come, I could find food anyway. But you do make it easier for me. I think only 15% of the kids are listening right now. And that's worth something. I mean you're planting seeds, and you don't know what happens down the line. But most just want to party and stay out here right now."

"I agree with you. The Bible even uses words like you chose, David. We do plant seeds. Some are swept away by forces of the world. Some don't grow well or even sprout at all, but some do. The Bible says those who do grow well multiply greatly and are very valuable. Jesus is so gentle he would not break a bent-over stem or blow out a candle while even the smallest glow remains. (Don't get me wrong… In the end, Jesus will judge those who do not know Him.) So I rejoice in sharing whatever I have to give, David, in the way of relief. But I treasure most moments of real authenticity and conversations about God, just like this one."

June 5, 2009

Knocking or Running Away?

I spent the morning with “Jacob”, a young man in his mid twenties man who lives on the street. He has invited me into conversations about Jesus before, but this morning he was obvious. And we talked at great length.

Jacob is a street poet. He finds little joy in anything else. He imagines that if he had money, he would engage in all sorts of activities that would make him happy. (Intriguingly, they were all activities which are dangerous and thrilling, just like the street like he currently lives.) I guided him to continue to explore the poet and entertainer that lives inside him. (You’ll find a rare quotation that “Jacob” shared with me by permission at the end of this article that I think is simply beautiful!)
Jacob was a foster kid, like so many kids of the street. He did prison time for a felony starting as a teenager, like so many others as well. He is very unusual in that his foster mom is a preacher. He was encouraged to go to Bible college and did.
So what does he need to talk with me about? Jacob came to doubt the Bible during his studies. He finds many inconsistencies in the Bible. He is able to debate with a fine, sharp point all kinds of issues. And he is also able to apply the Bible to the churches he sees and find many flaws. To him, these inconsistencies (in the Bible and between the ideal church and the modern church) have become a license to create his own religion and love is own God. He finds comfort in this, rather than viewing it as idolatry that it is. I know many who take this same position, both on the street and many living in homes.
I was happy that Jacob came to talk. I shared with him that belief in the Bible starts first with meeting the very real Jesus in person. After that, faith builds and you simply know that the Bible is true. For me and for most, there is no magic moment when it all makes sense. Often we’re not sure how to understand or apply some particular part of the Bible, but by walking with Jesus we simply know, feel, and observe it’s truth. Over time, the simple value and weight of the whole become allies in balancing those parts which we have difficulties to grasp.
Jacob’s heart was not instantly melted by our conversation. However, he was refreshed by a non-judgemental chance to talk about his concerns. And I was overjoyed to have the privilege of looking after him for a day. It was hard to decide if Jacob was knocking on the door today, or if he was running away. It’s likely he’s doing both. May he soon come face to face with Jesus as his personal savior and truly find what can make him complete and happy! Amen.
A quote from Jacob’s street poetry. He writes many dark lines about his experiences, his yearning for honestly and openness. This is one of his beautiful lines. I wish I could find him a publicist or an agent. If you’d like that, contact me.
“Tell me that you think I’m beautiful
not in spite of my flaws,
but tell me that you think I’m beautiful
because of my flaws.”
Jesus does look down on Jacob and say, “I love you just the way you are, Jacob. Come home to me.”