Archive for August, 2014

Evangelicals and ‘the least of these’

Saturday, July 26, 2014

John Smith is no ordinary preacher. When I met him in the 1990s, the longhaired Australian Methodist was an Asbury Seminary student who had earned recognition as a witness to outlaw motorcycle gangs and anam cara (spiritual mentor) to the Irish rock band U2.

The Rev. John "Bullfrog" Smith

I met John through the men’s group at Nicholasville United Methodist Church and read his memoir, “On the Side of the Angels.” (If you think you’re tough, try telling Hell’s Angels about Jesus and living to write about it.)

When I asked John to say a few words at a Christian rock concert for Habitat for Humanity, he quoted the prophet Amos to the young crowd: “I hate, I despise your festivals. … Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your (electric guitars). But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

John once told me something I’ll always remember. Jesus said his followers should be “in the world but not of it, but the problem with the church today, is that it is of the world but not in it,” he said.

He meant churches try to attract newcomers by being politically correct and culturally relevant, yet neglect timeless truths and become isolated behind their walls. They forget their first purpose isn’t to sing praises, but to get outside their sanctuary and their comfort zone and, in Jesus’ words, “make disciples” and care for “the least of these.”

I’ve been thinking about that in relation to events at home and abroad.

Last week, Bardstown Christian Fellowship celebrated its 10th anniversary. BCF is actually two churches, Redeemer Fellowship and Grace Fellowship, started by Matthew Spandler-Davison, a pastor from Scotland by way of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Although small, its influence is great. BCF’s members take seriously that stuff about making disciples and reaching the least, the last and the lost. They’ve planted churches in the U.S. and the U.K., sent missionaries to the most dangerous places on the planet and worked to help those in trouble at home.

In a combined service July 20, members shared testimony about ways BCF is making a difference. Marci Haydon and Sheri McGuffin talked about visits to Nicaragua and Scotland, and said mission isn’t something a few are “called” to do, but something all are “commanded” to do.

Barry McGuffin of Bethany Haven and the New Life Center, discussed what the church is doing to help the homeless, young mothers and their babies.

“I was a stranger and you took me in … and you gave me clothing.”

Matthew’s mum, Susan Davison, talked about Teachable Moments, which provides nourishment (material and spiritual) for Bardstown’s schoolchildren.

“I was hungry and you gave me food.”

Robbin Sizemore thanked the church for loving her husband and their family “unconditionally and intentionally” through their ordeal.

“I was in prison and you visited me.”

That’s the way the church is supposed to be.

Which brings me to another subject.

Along the Texas border, thousands of children from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have been brought into this country by human traffickers. They have been met with contempt by Americans, including Christians.

Some Christian groups, however, are taking the right approach, treating the children as refugees and urging President Obama and Congress to support reauthorization of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

“Let the little children come … and do not hinder them.”

The face Christianity presents to the world should be the face of compassion, not one contorted in hate.

In the words of a hymn we sang in that Methodist church in Nicholasville, they should “know we are Christians by our love.”

By our love.

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