On a large billboard in Phoenix, Arizona their exists an interesting message – “A Real Neighborhood Where People Know And Care For Others”. Wouldn’t it be great if every church had that message written in the hearts of its members?
Dr. John Morgan, Senior Pastor of Sagemont Church in Houston, Texas has helped his congregation know what it means to truly care for and love their neighbors. Several years ago Shug Prescott, a long-time member of a small Baptist church near John’s mega church had a major fire in her home. That night she went to visit her church friends, John and Kay Bass. Because her wardrobe was destroyed, she asked Kay if she had a dress and pair of shoes she could wear for church the following morning.
As the doors of the church opened, there was the ever-faithful Shug, with a smile on her face and hope in her heart. The pastor of the Broadway Baptist Church announced that Shug’s house had burnt to the ground the night before and he pleaded with the folks to help Shug out.
What neither Shug nor the pastor knew was that the friend she borrowed the clothing from was an elder’s wife in John’s large church. The elder told Pastor John about the disaster just before he preached Sunday’s first service. Without any apology John told his congregation, “Folks I know we’ve already taken our Sunday collection, but I need your help to encourage an 87 year old lady who just lost her home.” He went on to say, “I’m going to ask the ushers to come forward and you give what you can to help Shug out.”
By the end of Sunday morning the ushers had collected over $6,800 for Shug. That night John and Kay went to the evening service of the little Baptist church. There in the crowd was Shug still dressed in her borrowed clothes.
Elder Bass asked the pastor if it would be appropriate to make an announcement. He promptly called Shug out of the crowd and gave her a Sagemont envelope that contained a check for $6,800. Shug and the church rejoiced and gave praise to God.
The next afternoon at John and Kay’s house the doorbell rang. They opened their door to see Shug’s rebellious son holding the opened envelope they had given Shug the night before. They invited him in and listened to his story.
Fighting back tears the neighbor said, “Friends, for years you have tried to talk to me about Jesus. I’ve done everything to avoid discussing religious things with you folks because most Christians I know are a bunch of hypocrites.” As his lip quivered he went on to say, “Last evening you presented this envelope and a check to my mother. If this is how Christians care for one another then I want to know the Jesus who can encourage people to love one another in this way.”
Unfortunately, too many churches are so caught up in their liturgy, programs, performances, and government they are forgetting to do those things that really impact others. Some churches are ingrown, tired, petty, crotchety, and out of touch with their communities.
I’m reminded what the prophet Isaiah said, “The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish,
The intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” – Isaiah 29:13&14
People will know us and appreciate Christ within us because we first show them a Christ-like love. St. Francis of Assisi said it best, “Go preach…when necessary use words.”
Let’s remember, We Are the Message
You are writing a gospel
A chapter each day
By the deeds you do
By the words you say
Men may read what you write
Whether faithful or true
Just what is the gospel according to you?
Personal Application: Are you aware of some needs in your neighborhood that you and/or your can meet? What are the things God is directing you to handle? Can you get others in your church to help you with your project?