When I was a kid we learned this little poem in Sunday School that was accented by hand movements. One’s hands would be locked together with the interlocked fingers facing the speaker and the two index fingers pushed together pointing skyward like a church steeple. The poem goes:
Here’s the church,
this is the steeple;
open the doors
and see all the people!
As we said the last verse we would fling open our hands and wiggle all the fingers, a representation of all the lively people in the church. Cute, but i’m not sure just how lively the church is these days.
I just came home from driving through the South Side of Chicago this evening. It was only 8:30 and the streets were filled with Gs, everywhere. A perfectly refreshing night to be out and about. The sights, however, were not so perfect. The police were rousting out a big group of Gs (maybe Blue Fin Black Disciples, but I couldn’t be sure) gathered at the southeastern corner of Washington Park. A little further on there was a fist fight going on between two 9-10 year old kids with 30 people egging them on. There were prostitutes on one corner and guys slinging drugs on the other. Oh, and there were lots of people who appeared to have already had too much to drink. Everywhere I looked there were people who were headed into eternity without Christ. I tried to do my thing but it was so little and so weak in contrast to the forces gathering out in the streets for the summer. It all seemed a little surreal and I wasn’t quite sure why I was feeling so sad. Then, I passed a group of guys gathered in front of a church and it struck me. Where’s all the people, the church people, that is!!!
I started looking past the gathering crowds and what I saw astounded me. Every block had a church building or two safely ensconced on the block, but they were all closed and not a light to be seen. How ironic, I thought, that if Christians are the light of the world and the local church is the hope of the world, that each church was dark as the night, and whatever hope the building might claim to possess on Sunday was locked away for the night, just when those in the hood needed it most. How sad it seemed that in nearly every case, there were groups of men and women gathering in front of those churches who were without Christ and without hope. I guess they knew that after the Sunday services, the church took Monday off. maybe the rest of the week too. Sin could sit at the doorstep of the church without even being challenged.
What struck me was that Christians are supposed to be the hands and feet of Jesus, but they were nowhere to be seen. What I saw, however, were the hands and feet of another, a more sinister and demanding master who was sending his cohorts out to enlist even more people to his cause. And everywhere, he was unchallenged! How can that be with Christians inhabiting every one of those blocks. How can it be with buildings everywhere that are dedicated to taking the Gospel (i.e. Good News) to the lost? I’m not trying to be overly critical and I am speaking to myself just as much as I am to all of you, but its time to open the doors of those buildings and start a procession of people going both in and out. There should be people going in who have questions about God and problems He can solve. There should be people going out to proclaim that there is a place where Gs can go to find real life and that there is a person who can give them a living water that will refresh them and give them hope for the future. That living water will not dry up nor will it run out. If tonight seemed like a perfectly refreshing night, think what it will be like for that G who finds God because someone brought him that living water.
Let me close by saying that the pastors of my church have begun a series of messages where the theme is to “Go Outside,” sort of like the old Nike theme, “Just Do It.” That’s what we all need to do. Go outside, each day of the week, all summer long, and address those kids sitting on your steps with love, hope, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. What if every church in every Chicago neighborhood found a way to turn the lights of their churches on at night and have people sitting on the steps of their church with a smile, a handshake, and maybe some fresh apple pie. What if every church in every neighborhood took up the challenge to Go Outside for these kids each day of the summer. One need not go farther than the block your church was built on. In doing that, you’ll probably cross paths with Christians on the next block doing the same thing as you are. Link arms, love each other and pray for the kids you’ve both gone outside to help. Then let the Holy Spirit do his thing and watch what God does this summer. Just “Go Outside” and watch God work. Who knows what stories that will spawned, what ministries will be born, and what lives will be changed…forever. Well, God knows, so when it happens, write to us here at Crossfire. Let us know the miracles you see so that God’s work in one neighborhood will inspire His people in another neighborhood. Just “Go outside.” God will do the rest. Then, maybe some of you will write back something like:
We opened the church.
We turned on the light.
We went outside
and God lit up the night.
You’ll probably do better with the verse, so don’t hesitate to outdo me on that! In the meantime,
JUST GO OUTSIDE!