When The Church Isn’t There

Let’s be real.

I ran through a few different titles for this blog post.

The Character Of God

God’s Word Doesn’t Change

Get Your Freaking Communications In Order

The Most Un-Marcy Thing To Do Ever

How Could You Leave Me Hanging Like That

I’m writing this one for two reasons. 1) People need to know. 2) I don’t want to forget.

It all started with a service opportunity.

So far, so good.

It didn’t involve anything I might typically do.

No graphics, no guest services, no social media, no database.

This one was boots-on-the-ground. Downtown. Serving our city’s homeless community.

I think we’ve already established what Marcy would do. I’ll babysit your kids so you can go serve, then you send me pics of you serving and I’ll post them to your organization’s social media pages so all the world can know just how awesome you are.

(Read that with a slight hint of sarcasm. None of us – me, you, all y’all – are even close to awesome. Not even close.)

So… I checked the date, time, and location of this serving opportunity against a few other things I had that day (all 38,000 of them).

I realized I would be in the right place at the right time and had a few hours to spare.

What I’d typically do in that situation would be to load up a laptop and find the closest coffee shop.

That’s what Marcy does.

But I agreed to serve.

Two days before the event, I received a confirmation text.

Document timeline. Midweek: opportunity is posted for Monday. Saturday: personal text confirming Monday.

Pause: this WAS NOT, in any way, organized by my church. This was an outreach by a third party organization who (I’m absolutely assuming here), contacted various churches for help.

However, my only communication for or about it was from our Lead Pastor.

Here’s a pro tip: don’t make your Lead Pastor the point person for communications. It’s not their job. Communications will fail. Find a volunteer and put the ball in their court. Anyone who throws the LP under the bus after reading this post, should read that again.

Let’s get back to it. We left off with the personal text confirming Saturday. Address – check. Carpool with us or meet you there? I’ll meet you there. Good to go.

Monday morning I arrived at the appointed location, at the appointed time. My role: help set up a tent, help set out chairs, an organization is going to give haircuts to the homeless community. After setting up tents + chairs, I just get to pray with and for people.

I can do this.

I even left the house without my laptop!

I arrived 15 minutes early, found an open parking lot directly across from the location, arranged to sell a kidney, and paid for parking (another pro tip: if you want to make real money, go into the parking lot business.)

I’m only 10-15 minutes early. Surely there should be some activity.

Nothing.

Just three guys, sitting on a bench under an awning, in front of a store across the street.

Me: suburban mom in an unfamiliar part of downtown that seemed eerily inactive and three rather rough looking (God, forgive me for judging people based on outward appearance) dudes across the street. Obviously we all saw one another. You couldn’t NOT see one another.

Do I get back in my car, lock doors, and wait for back up while scrolling social media?

Nope.

I crossed the street, walked directly to them, and said, “hey guys… what’s up?”

That was the start of two hours that changed my life.

I was there to help them get haircuts. They were waiting to get haircuts. but no one else was there.

No haircut people. No other homeless people. And no church people.

We struck up a conversation. All the while, I’m thinking, ‘where are my people? Where are any people?’ I’m quickly making a connection with them… this is crazywhy am I here alone? What am I even doing?

Then these guys decided to take a walk to a few downtown churches – maybe we got the location wrong.

Oh no.

You are not leaving me here alone. I’m going with you.

We weren’t meant to do life alone, and at that moment, my community – my safety, security, and comfort – had become three homeless guys I’d known for roughly 15-20 minutes.

So there I am, walking through downtown with three homeless guys, hoping that at the next turn, we’re going to see a tent and people.

No tent. No people.

We made our way home – back to the familiar bench in front of the store, under the awning, across from my car.

We talked. I asked them about their lives. What happened to them? Why are they homeless? Why they’d rather live on the streets than in a shelter? What are they learning from this? What’s their plan to turn their lives around?

I texted our Pastor (again, don’t expect your LP to field this stuff – ever):

Where are you? • What is going on? Am I in the right place?

I get a text back: the event was canceled.

(Heads up: I’ll serve the church I’m a member of for free as your church comm person; scroll back a few posts. If I strongly believe in you or your organization, you get me for free on a volunteer basis.)

Another incoming text: I’m so sorry.

My response:

You’re going to be sorry. • I feel forgotten. Left out. Unwanted. Not thought of. • You’ve really screwed up my day/life. How could you, you completely selfish idiot? • It’s okay. God meant for me to be here. I get to talk to them about Jesus.

Don’t lose it. • Hold it together. • Build a relationship. • I’m a fish out of water. • Talk about Jesus. • Share your story. • Why am I even here? Don’t leave here.

And then the moment. One of the guys says this happens all the time.

What?

The preachers come on Sunday. They tell us people are coming. People don’t come.

Preachers = God / Jesus

People are coming = God / Jesus are coming

People don’t come = God / Jesus doesn’t come

This is the basis for their belief system.

I told them I was so sorry for this experience. This isn’t at all how Jesus is.

And one guy said, “we feel bad for you.”

Why?

Because your people didn’t show up either.

And I lost it. I openly sobbed and poured out the train wreck to three homeless guys.

You’re right. I feel unloved, unwanted, left out on a limb, stranded on base, unprepared, a bit uncomfortable, forgotten, angry, and seriously hurt.

Honestly, in this moment, I want to tell you that church people suck because we do. And the one I attend – in that moment – was the worst offender.

Yep. I’m out. Over done. Church is not for me.

But God.

I didn’t immediately pull out the YouVersion Bible app and meet them with scripture.

I just shared personal experience. Every time I’ve been in a valley, down, broken, near the end, Jesus stepped in. It’s been rough – comparatively no where near as rough as where they are – but it definitely hasn’t been easy. And every single time, in unexplainable ways, God was there.

Then. After all that, I gave them scripture. I pointed out how His promises were true. Every time.

In the end they acknowledged that not all churches (or church people) must be that way, because I showed up.

What!? Did God just use my broken, messed up, train wreck of a life to reach them? Maybe. I think I cried even more at that.

They agreed to meet my husband and I at that same bench on Sunday morning and go to our church with us (I’m praying they actually show up and go).

We hugged and parted ways.

And what I realized is that when the church isn’t there, many believe that Jesus isn’t there.

But I know that when the church isn’t there, that’s when you know Jesus really is there.

The home team bench.

5 thoughts on “When The Church Isn’t There

  1. Marcy, thank you for this post. Thank you for showing up and being Jesus to those three men. It amazes me how much the church can let people down like that, but it doesn’t matter now because God used you to hopefully help redeem this situation. I will pray that those guys do come back and also for your back.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Todd! Make sure as you read: this was not our church’s event AND this has happened to these people before. According to them, it’s an ongoing issue. I honestly believe our LP went above and beyond the call of duty in communicating anything at all (because it’s not his job to spoon feed me information).

    Lack of a good internal communications structure is a problem in many churches (and if you want talk about the right database to help you, I’d be glad to chat). Too often, we’re relying on an already overstretched church staff to act as our “operators,” when in reality, ministry team leaders and small group leaders should help bear the burden.

    But I think the real problem is not that I didn’t know. I’m an adult and have been a Christ follower for awhile. (Read Unoffendable).

    The real problem is how those we’re serving see us.

    Being a Christ follower doesn’t make you a robot, void of any human emotion.

    Sure, I was hurt – and ran through range of normal human emotions – in a span of like 3 seconds. There was a time in my life when I would have dwelled on it for days, weeks, or even months. Some people leave churches over junk like this.

    But Jesus took those to the cross.

    I think our focus needs to be on displaying Christ to the people we’re serving. They realized I had the same human emotions that they had, but God gave His son.

    My hope isn’t whether or not there’s a tent. Or whether or not there are people. My hope is in Christ and Christ alone.

    I don’t think I’d change anything that happened on Monday.

    Like

  3. Your vunerability and openness to these individuals most likely made a deeper positive impression of Jesus’s love than the people who volunteered to cut hair ( if they had shown up). This was definitely a divine plan from above. Seeing that this has happened to these gentlemen before, their impression of God and His love for them through the church had become a sour taste. God clearly used you and in doing so surely created a new picture of Christ followers to these men. God Bless.

    Like

  4. Pingback: When The Church Is There | MarcyCarrico.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s