Friday, July 26, 2013

How far does your compassion go?

The purpose of this blog is two-fold: to share our experiences of stepping out in faith from feeling compassion to acting upon it, and secondly to encourage others to do the same.

This week, a story has circulated the social media world. It was a great story about a new pastor of a church challenging the compassion of the congregation. He dressed down as a homeless person, mingling with the congregation before the church service to see how he was received. Then when the new pastor was being introduced, he shocked all by going up to the altar, reading from Matthew 25 (from which this blog sub-heading is taken) and revealed himself as the new pastor.
The sad thing about this story being circulated is that it is apparantly a fake story. The named pastor (Jeremiah Steepek) with the quoted congregation of 10,000 cannot be found. A pastor of a church of that size would surely be found in a directory somewhere. Around the arena of the internet, onlookers scoff at the gullible for believing and at Christians for being immobile.

So the message gets lost. Oh yes, nice in theory, but see: it's not true.

But isn't it?  Was it, perhaps, just a great story that someone felt the need to exaggerate for a point?  Because there is a rel story here. True and confirmed.  The congregation might be 200 instead of 10,000 but if enough report it then it gets the message to tens of thousands.

The real story can read in The Tennessean, of a Pastor named Rev. Willie Lyle of Sango United Methodist Church in Tennessee. Rev Lyle felt convicted that he was to live out what he preached, and for one week he lived as a homeless person: sleeping on the streets, getting food as and when he could in the same way as any other homeless person.
On the morning of his first sermon, he propped himself under a tree on the lawn of the church. He was unwashed, unbrushed and covered in a large overcoat.

The article doesn't state how he made a grand entrance, but he began his sermon in the same attire. From the article,
the sermon title was “The Least Used Parts of the Body” and based on I Corinthians 12:12-15. According to Pastor Lyle, “Often the least used parts of the body are the ones that mean the most, like our heart and mind. We need to understand that there are no small or least used parts in the body of Christ.
“Too many of us only want to serve God one hour each week. That doesn’t cut it. That is not God’s plan.”
As he preached, his daughter and daughter-in-law brushed his hair, cleaned up his beard, helped him change his shoes, took his overcoat and he donned his tie and suit jacket. He transformed from pitied or frowned-upon homeless man to respected pastor with the message - don't just talk about it. Be part of the solution. Do it.

Why anyone felt the need to change the story, the name, the location, the great details, I don't know. It does nothing but detract from the message; gets non-believers mocking that we have to make something up perhaps, and makes believers turn away embarrassed. So let's move on. I won't dwell on the schemes that cause division but look at the solution, plan it and do it.

Who will join in being part of the solution? Being the church? Taking the one hour a week on a Sunday and turning the world's stage into a 24/7 mission field?

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