THE CHURCH WITHOUT OUTREACH
Fred Craddock tells the story of his first church. It was a beautiful little white church on a hill in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The church was beautifully maintained. The pews had been hand-hewn from giant poplar trees that had grown nearby. Little kerosene lamps on the walls provided light inside the church. This little church was 112 years old, and most of the charter members were still living and active in the church. The church had a pump organ, and Miss Mary, the organist played it just as slow as possible. Needless to say, the Spirit seldom moved.
One day, somewhere in the Pentagon in Washington, someone in their wisdom decided to put a nuclear power plant in this scenic, ideal little town. People began showing up with license plates from such places as Pennsylvania, Washington, New York, Oklahoma and yes, God help us all, Texas. In every hill and holler there were to be seen travel trailers and even motorcycles. It was clearly a satanic invasion.
The pastor called the elders together ... you know what elders are?... just like deacons except they are more spiritual. He suggested that they begin an outreach program to reach all of these new people in town.
The elders were appalled. What if these people were allowed to stay in town, why they might intermarry with our people. Surely we don’t want them coming into our church. They probably don’t sing our songs. After more discussion it got quiet. Finally, everyone got hungry and decided to go home and resume the conversation next Sunday.
After church the next Sunday, Fred called the elders together a second time. Before he had a chance to say anything, the number one leader in the church said, "I move that we change the locks on the church and nobody can have a key who does not own property in this county!" And somebody else said, "Amen! I second the motion!" They voted it in unanimously except for the preacher, and they told him his vote didn’t count anyway. He became a little nervous since he lived in the pastoreum and didn’t own property in the county.
Years later, Fred and his wife were driving through that part of the country. He said to his wife, "Let’s go by and see the old church." He said they had a hard time finding it because interstates had been built and things had changed a lot.
But they kept driving around and stopping at stores to ask for directions. They finally found where the church was. It was still on a secondary road. So they drove to the top of the hill, and there is was .... a beautiful little church, gleaming white on the hillside.
But there was a difference. The parking lot was full of cars, trucks, RVs, and motorcycles. People were going in and out of the building. Fred and his wife were thrilled. When they finally found a parking place and began to walk toward the entrance, they finally found the sign. It read, "Oak Ridge Barbecue."
Fred considered the people who were present at the tables and thought of what the elders had decided so long ago. He said to his wife, "You know, it’s a good thing this place is not a church now because these people couldn’t come here."
As the church, we can model the love of Jesus as we love and accept people. Or we can be exclusive in our love and forfeit our calling to be an authentic church.
(From a sermon by Bob Joyce, Rooted in Love, 1/2/2011)
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