Hoping to challenge his congregation's beliefs on poverty, a Mormon Bishop transformed himself into a homeless man and loitered outside the church before service started on a Sunday. The Bishop adopted a disguise that added mutton-chops, dark bags under his eyes and disfigured teeth. He added a crutch, then leaning on the crutch waited outside the church to see people’s responses. “What surprised me the most was the reaction of indifference. The majority of the people just ignored me and went to great lengths not to make eye contact and just walked right by me. I also was told by several people to leave the property!"
But those wishing the "homeless" man would leave the church were left surprised and unsettled when a church assistant, who had been let in on Musselman's disguise, informed the congregation that "this homeless man would like to say a few words."
"The congregation was beside themselves. Then I pulled my wig and glasses off and with a loud gasp they were stunned." Some attendees reacted by crying, while others said nothing, some came forward to apologize for their indifference at the end of the service and announced what they would do to atone for their actions. “We don't always have to give money or even food, but if we act the way we say we believe, just smiling and making eye contact and allowing them to have a little bit of dignity can be enough," he said.
Why don’t we believe what we believe? Another similar story:
Churchgoers were left shamed after they ignored a tramp who turned out to be their minister in disguise. Rev. Derek Rigby sat on the porch to his church as the congregation arrived for a Sunday service, hidden beneath a wig, dirty and with scruffy clothes people just walked by. He then settled on a pew in the church. None of the worshipers at the Methodist Church in North Wales, even spoke to him or offered him any help.
The 51-year-old then took off his wig to reveal his true identity, before delivering a sermon based on the failure of the disciples to recognize Jesus Christ on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection. Rev Rigby said: "It was interesting to see the reaction from people - I was totally ignored, totally. It showed that we don't recognize God at work and in each other. I told my congregation they were a stingy lot!
How many of us call ourselves a “Christian”, yet we just don’t “do” Christian? All the people in these articles go to church, yet treat people who don’t look like them with total disdain. Why? Why don’t we believe what we believe? Why don’t churches believe what they believe or do what they preach?
A few local examples:
A while back, one of the homeless people we see on Sundays told me that a church van would pick them up at the Salvation Army in Tampa on Sunday morning and take them to church. Once they got there, they were herded to a section of the church and told to stay in the roped off area away from the “regular” parishioners. Is that how Jesus would treat these people?
Kay’s Ministry was told to stop feeding in a parking lot in Tampa a few years ago. I called a local church and asked the pastor of the church if we could use the steps of the church to feed the homeless for half an hour on Sunday afternoons after we give the word. I was told by the pastor, "we don’t want 'those' people around here!" Is that what Jesus would say?
Recently a homeless man who I’ve known for 3-4 years who’s been beaten up and stabbed recently wanted to go to church Sunday morning. He was very upset when we arrived that Sunday afternoon. He told me, as I went into the church a parishioner told me you can’t come in! Granted he’s not the cleanest looking man. He said to me, "I asked them why, and they said you’re wearing jeans and a t-shirt. We’re not letting you in. Go to another church!" He said, "I'm coming in." They told him, "don’t do this!" He told me he turned around and left. This man and I have had numerous one-on-one talks about his life and as he says, “How terrible my life is and I don’t know how much more I can take!” He’s mentioned to me before he has no reason to live and has contemplated suicide. The conversations we have are usually about how God still loves him. It’s hard to convince people God loves them when people who call themselves Godly people treat others in an unGodly manner. Sometimes we play God, but we forget God is God and we’re just servants!
In our own parish of St Stephen a priest told us, “Kay’s Ministry is not helping these homeless people at all. All your ministry is doing is enabling them to stay down, you should just steer them to the diocese or the government!”
It’s seems like anybody who wants to help others can only do it if the church says it’s OK. Jesus said go make disciples of all nations; he didn’t say go ask for permission first! Why do the priests every Sunday preach from the pulpit that we need to help the less fortunate yet they don’t want us doing this on our own? I know of two or three local ministries headed by regular Christian people outside the church that bring Jesus and His love to His people. We need more of this not less!
Why don’t we believe what we believe? Why has the church become more like a club? They basically tell us, “You cannot practice your faith outside the church!” If you’re a member you need to get our permission! It’s like the church is becoming the haves and the have nots! Why is it people who have absolutely nothing in life, get rejected, ignored, stepped over and asked to leave by us “Christians?” I include myself in this.
Why don’t we believe what we believe?
Unfortunately it seems like “Christian beliefs” are actually becoming misguided and inspired more by worldly religion than the Word of God. Being a Christian means that you’re changed on the inside--not controlled by others from the outside. It means that your heart has been changed by the presence of God. It means that you’re free to do His work where and when you see fit. It doesn’t mean that you’re required to go to church, required to pay tithes, required to be good or do anything in order to stay a Christian. It means you desire to do those things because you've been changed.
I wonder what it’s going to look like when Jesus sits with each one of us when we’re called home and He says, I want you to watch this dvd of your life with me, but I want you to pay “very close attention” to how you treated the least of my brothers. To be a Christian means to follow Christ, to desire Him, to fellowship with Him, to live the moral life requested by Him, and to bring glory to Him in your life. You should not have to ask the church if it’s OK to do the work of Jesus Christ! Churches should focus on building people, not building buildings! Christianity is a people-building process. Build your people before your steeple. The next time we all see someone who’s down on their luck, maybe we look “at” them, and not “through” them. Then maybe we can see Jesus Christ “IN” them!
“Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you!”
Thank you and God bless,
Charlie McGowan and the Kay’s Ministry Family