The problem with church folk

Written by BG Howard

April 17, 2024

One subject that seems to be virtually unavoidable, no matter the circumstances, is that of religion.  This was a topic among many included in a recent lengthy conversation with a gentleman I’ll identify as Mr. Fred.  He reported his efforts at trying to embody the characteristics of Jesus though not having an affiliation with any local church.  When pressed on the issue of significance held in the biblical directive to not forsake the “assembly of the saints” Mr. Fred had spoken of an unfortunate incident that altogether deflated his faith in the church.

The man with whom I had only been briefly associated disclosed having once met a young lady who wore the label assigned to “self-employed” women working in the “hospitality” industry.  Mr. Fred noted he’d invited the woman to attend church service at the place where he held membership for her to eventually agree.  As fate would have it, there were a number of people at the church who either knew of, or knew, the woman and didn’t exactly go out of their way to make her feel welcomed.  In fact, the administrators approached him following the incident and “suggested” he not bring her kind back to their establishment.  Needless-to-say, that situation soured him on the mere concept of attending church services.  Not only did the woman not find a church home where she might receive the necessary spiritual guidance but an individual who’d been a long-time member also disassociated himself with the church.

Interestingly enough, recollection of the event detailed were conjured up Friday of last week when I’d attended a church’s anniversary service but the outcome was, thankfully, different.  One of my neighbors happens to be the shepherd of Serenity Christian Fellowship in Jacksonville, FL as well as the sister church; Serenity Christian Fellowship South at St. Augustine, FL.

The pastor had extended an invitation for attendance at the church’s anniversary celebration in St. Augustine on Friday of last week.  A guest speaker had been invited to deliver the message and was actually in the process when a homeless man passed through the midst of the congregation on his way to the rest room.  The peculiar moment was accented by the fact that the gentleman was wrapped in a blanket.

Oddly enough, when the man passed back through the sanctuary during service, the pastor stopped him and spoke a few words before asking the visitor to sit on the adjacent pew.  Following service, the church’s pastor invited a couple of his counterparts and spoke with the man only to find out he was someone whom they’d known from kindergarten and grade school.  An impromptu plan of assistance was immediately structured to try getting the gentleman necessary help.  When asked how the church could assist, the man simply requested a blanket as he’d been sleeping in a nearby park so the pastor confirmed that one could be delivered there shortly.

The senior pastor then made a phone call as any store where bed linen could be purchased had already closed due to the lateness of the hour.  He drove to a friend’s house and picked up the blanket and returned it to the gentleman waiting in the specified park.  It wasn’t until after the fact that my neighbor disclosed having done that same thing for the same man on two or three occasions.  A couple of the pastor’s friends had even gone as far as to put the man up in a rooming house, the good Samarian informed, but he’d chosen to not abide by the rules governing residents’ conduct.

Sadly enough, it was reported the gentleman would rather “chase his habit” than be comfortable.  When asked how often he’d put forth an effort to help the homeless man, the pastor remarked, “As Christians, it’s our duty to assist hurting people.  We’re called to help those who can’t, or won’t, help themselves.”  The Word never said how often that help would be required.  There’s a big difference between Christians who wear the title because it’s fashionable simply for the sake of playing church and those genuinely obeying the call to be servants.  I could be wrong but it’s just something to consider.

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