Six months ago I was called to a home where a resident thought her house was possessed by demons. I went to the house with another staff member, Bibles in hand, not sure what to expect. We entered the house and very quickly ascertained that the problem was not spiritual at all. It was the drug commonly known as ‘ice.’
The problem was not spiritual. It was the drug commonly known as ‘ice.’
I advised the girl to move out of the house with her three little children as soon as possible. Come to church, accept Jesus as Lord and we would ‘take care of her.’ I held little hope that she would do so. However next Sunday there she was, at the 9:30 am service, sitting up the back with her three young children.
I told her how impressed I was that she had turned up to church. She told me she had moved out of the house, but had no food, no fridge and no idea what to do.
Our church was completely unprepared to help this person.
Luckily we got her a fridge that afternoon and our congregation began taking care of her with food and catching up with her and offering babysitting etc. But as the months progressed, our inadequacy continued to manifest itself. Like the good Samaritan, we were there to help without questioning her background (Luke 10:33-35). But unlike the good Samaritan, we were not prepared to help our neighbours in that way. We preached grace as a free gift. But were we prepared to bear the cost of her accepting that grace of Jesus? We are far too comfortable and middle class.
A few months on the same things happened. A young man presented himself at my office. His home situation is similar, in that his father is a drug dealer. He is a drug user. He wanted to meet Jesus and change his life. We read the Bible together and he was overwhelmed by the man from Nazareth. He is indeed now following Jesus. However our church, again, found itself struggling to help this young man move forward with his life. Having dropped out of school and done nothing really but drugs for five years, his options to support himself are very limited. No drivers licence, no job, no formal education.
What ministry in the church could I send this young man to…?
It was as if we had received that Jesus went teaching everywhere but not healing, (Matthew 4:23). Our church was ready to speak, but not prepared to serve (1 Peter 4:11). Grace is free, but it’s not cheap. We need to be prepared to take up our cross each day and follow Jesus in word and deed. In the story of the good Samaritan, it cost the Samaritan much to be a good neighbour; oil, wine, money, his transportation, time and reputation. What an example to imitate.
What can the church do? How can we respond? How can we help together without creating yet another ministry that may fall to the staff to oversee and manage?
Firstly, we will have to survey our congregation. What actually can we offer? I suspect that we can do many things, families can cook meals. Bible studies can take on a person in need, praying but also mobilising concrete needs for that person from within the group. People can offer help with teaching people to drive. We can get people to donate second-hand furniture and store them in our sheds, so if people need a fridge or couch they are ready to go. We will need to have a pastoral care team and professionals we can outsource to.
Alongside all these things we can do, we also need to have some principles in place so people don’t get used. Church is not a social welfare organisation, it is God’s people gathered for his glory.
I suspect there will be many more things I have not mentioned, but until we ask we will never know.