I’ve preached a lot of sermons about showing the love of Jesus to people in need, but Sunday–for the first time in a couple of years–I actually spent time with homeless people.
I was asked to preach at the City Rescue Mission in downtown Jacksonville last Sunday (Easter). I wish I could tell you that I enthusiastically accepted this opportunity, but I didn’t.
I actually struggled with the decision.
This is my last Easter at Christ’s Church and I didn’t want to miss all of the excitement.
The beautiful flowers.
The fancy clothes.
The huge crowds.
The special music.
I spoke at our campus in Georgia last Easter (my first year here), so I’ve never been on our Mandarin campus on Easter, but the more I prayed about it the more I knew that I needed to preach downtown last Sunday.
It was a blessing beyond description.
About one hundred and twenty-five people from our Celebrate Recovery ministry and I held a service for at least one hundred homeless people under a tent in the parking lot next to the dining hall at the mission downtown.
Their were no beautiful flowers, but there were a ton of beautiful people.
A couple of the homeless people were wearing fancy outfits, but most were dressed in clothing that was old, dirty, and well-worn.
The crowd was huge–standing room only . . . and they spoke encouraging words to me during my sermon.
And the music provided by the CR band was truly special.
When the service was over we served them lunch and gave them new pairs of socks as they left.
I met so many interesting people that morning.
Tim is from Knoxville. He has a herniated disk in his back and he was divorced five years ago. He doesn’t like living alone.
Jamie told me that he was entering a substance abuse recovery program on Monday. He was excited that he’s been sober for a month. I hope he went.
Willy loves Jesus and is grateful for his friend Jack who helps him walk around town.
Winston loves to read, enjoys the freedom of living on the streets, but has no use for God. He had dread-locks, army pants, and eyes that–as we spoke–seemed to be searching for something beyond our conversation.
I had the chance to touch a lot of people.
It was an amazing experience. It was a humbling experience and a reminder that preaching is not enough.
“Preaching is not enough.”
This is what Straton–a preacher in Africa–said in a video I watched today.
I want to be like Straton, because Straton is like Jesus.
In the video Straton confesses that he learned what more preachers (like me) need to remember: Words are not enough.
Jesus didn’t just talk about feeding the hungry; he multiplied the loaves and fed the hungry.
Jesus didn’t just talk about healing the diseased; he touched the lepers.
Jesus didn’t just talk about serving the needy; he washed dirty feet.
He didn’t just preach about loving people; he actually loved people.
Preachers, we have to preach. It’s what we’ve been called to do, but people need more than words. They need us to set an example. They need us to understand that preaching is not enough.
It wasn’t enough for Jesus, it’s not enough for Straton, and it’s no longer enough for me.