A while ago, a stranger called a friend of mine connected to a church. She heard the church was supporting a ministry in a foreign country. The ministry is pretty simple. A girl we grew up with moved to another country and is loving the street children there. Handicapped kids in this particular place are discarded on the street, so she takes them in and feeds them. Many of them actually take the name of the ministry as their own last name since no one wants them and will give them a last name.
But the stranger on the phone was unhappy. She had been to the country in question and felt that the ministry was not doing good work. She claimed they were acting like a celebrity charity organization, not a ministry. My friend knew how poor this ministry was. How many street children it was housing night after night. Something about the phone call was not adding up.
Finally, the stranger on the phone showed her hand. The big issue, the one that was really driving the concerned call, was that this ministry, although Christ centered, was not teaching the gospel the right way. They were not winning people to the Lord directly enough.
My friend took a few breaths, paused, and then said the kind of thing that if I ever start a church I will give out awards for:
“OK, but they are saving kids from getting raped, beaten and starving. They are giving kids a place to live. And it’s tough as a child to worry about other things when you don’t have a safe place to exist.”
The call ended a few minutes later with the woman vowing to investigate this ministry quietly when she went back to the foreign country. My friend got off the phone. The night was over.
I think that phone calls like this happen because we sometimes argue about what a “real” ministry is. For some people, the process of becoming a Christian has a beginning and a very distinct end goal. The beginning can vary, but the end is always that you get saved. You convert. You give your life to Christ. That is the end goal for some people.This woman on the phone thought the ministry in question was not focusing enough on the end goal. They were spending too much time and money and energy on other issues, like feeding homeless children.
I have a really hard time with that. I honestly would love if you read this website and instantly become a Christian. In all seriousness, there is nothing in my own life as important as my relationship with Christ and if you started one today, that would be great. But if you don’t, I refuse to see that my ministry, if that is what this is, has failed. I am perfectly fine with being a middle part of your journey.
Maybe the entire point of this site is to show you that not every Christian is a humorless, tankini wearing, boycott loving, close minded jerk. Maybe the point of this site is to show you that God is not out to get you, He’s out to love you. And maybe you won’t become a Christian for another ten years. (My wife wears a tankini by the way. I am cool with that suit.)
I like to remember that when Jesus fed the massive crowd with the fish and loaves in Mark, it doesn’t say, “and they all become followers.” Not at all, it says instead, “they all ate and were satisfied.” I think it’s OK to love someone by feeding them and clothing them and sheltering them from the streets and rape and homelessness. I don’t think God is shaking His head at us for not “converting” them instantly.
I don’t want to be that lady on the phone. I want to see you as a person that Christ loves, not as a conversion number for my excel spreadsheet of evangelism. And if I have ever treated you that way, or criticized another ministry for not converting enough people, I apologize. I hope the prosperity piece I wrote didn’t do that, but I am mistake prone, so it’s certainly possible.
p.s. I wrote something new last night “For me, using drugs wasn’t the real problem.”