As the pastor of a local church that is attempting to minister to people during difficult economic times, I fully understand that a church cannot give to every person in need. There’s always a limited supply of money and there will always be an unlimited amount of need.
In our church, during these tough times, we try, as best we can on limited funds, to first assist those of our congregation who are hit by the economic crisis. Once in a while, we may be able to help some in the community. Unfortunately, we simply can’t meet every need.
A couple of months ago, however, I was approached by two men in our church who wanted to have a “benefit barbecue” for a family they knew to be in severe need. While this family lives in another city some 40 miles away, they are known to many in our church. The husband was an active pastor and a dynamic and charismatic leader until June 2007 when, at age 53, he was felled by a devastating stroke that left him severely disabled.
If that were not enough, his young son had to have open heart surgery to repair a hole in his heart, and if THAT weren’t enough, his wife was diagnosed with cancer and had to endure months of grueling treatment. All of that left the family in a horrific financial position with no one in the home being able to work.
No one, that is, except for the son who, in spite of all the difficulties of having heart surgery, managed to graduate from college and was able to provide some limited funds.
Still, the family lost their home, their car was wrecked beyond repair, leaving them with no vehicle, and there were still two minor children in the home. A pastor from Florida heard about the vehicle situation and he and his wife gave the family their pickup truck, a vehicle in wonderfully good condition.
Our men began to work on the project and decided to smoke chickens and sell chicken plates. The youth of the church became involved and decided to do a benefit car wash on the same day.
People in the church picked up some 400 tickets and, before long, sold every one to friends, neighbors, and relatives. Some people bought 10 or 20 tickets and gave them away to people they knew would appreciate the meal but might not be able to afford tickets for the whole family. Others just gave money to the project outright.
When the day arrived, our men, assisted by others, began cooking in the parking lot of the church at 4 a.m. Women came a bit later to set up tables and box up the meals for those who wanted them “to go.”
The youth arrived and, by 10 a.m., assisted by a couple of adults and several children, suds were flying as a steady stream of cars received a free car wash — with all of the owners leaving a donation behind. The next day, a Sunday, there were 31 smoked chickens left in the fridge which were all bought by members of our church.
The end result? The money raised for the family surpassed the actual (and rather lofty) goal by a significant amount. While the generosity and sacrifice of our people left me humbled and proud, the truth is that such scenes quietly occur all the time in churches throughout the country.
The church sometimes gets a bad rap from people who call it selfish and hypocritical (often from people who never darken the door of a church) but the actual story is something else. In every community, believers and churches regularly minister to the basic needs of people.
While there may be churches that are self-absorbed, there are many, many more who understand that they are here to serve others and to be the hand of Christ extended.
As proud and pleased as I was as that day came to a successful conclusion, it couldn’t compare to the feeling that I could almost hear the voice of Jesus saying to the people who labored so long and hard, “Well done, you good and faithful servants ... inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these my brothers, you have done it unto Me.”
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]