Back when I was pastoring, I held on to a letter for years that would remind me what was really important for me and my church. A woman had written me and said:
“We live on busy street. There are a lot of kids who ride by our house on their bikes. I am probably overly protective of my children because I don’t want them to get in with the wrong crowd. Perhaps not a very Christ-like move on my part, but I feel I need to protect them. There is a little girl who rides around here named Annie. I have had to talk to her before, because she turns our water spigot on until she has made a mudhole of our yard. She is always dirty and I, ashamedly so, hate to see her coming. (My 6-year-old daughter) Becky was outside playing today and her older sister came inside to tell on her. Becky was playing with Annie. I told my older daughter to ask Becky to come inside for a minute. I asked her why she was playing with Annie.
“She said ‘Mom, I am playing with her because she has no friends. She rides by here everyday by herself and never has anybody with her. I thought that I would not like to have to ride my bike alone all day, so I asked her if I could be her friend. She is sitting out on our porch right now waiting for me. Can I go back out and play with her?
“I was dumbfounded. I get so wrapped up in what I am doing, and trying to raise good kids, that I forget what God wants us to be doing. I took a popsicle out to Annie and she thanked me and smiled the prettiest little smile through that dirty face. Then I thought of that verse about ‘Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.’”
Her letter made me think about what was important in my life and the life of my church…and that maybe we should stop asking “what’s important?” and start asking “who’s important?” “Who” is always more important than “what”. The question all of us have to ask is how important to us are the people who don’t yet know Jesus? There are adults who ride their bikes past the doors of our churches each day and don’t know that Jesus—the Friend of Sinners—is their friend. They have little dirty lives and play in little dirty mud holes and we, the Church, have all the popsicles.
Perhaps we just need to step off the porch and ask them if they’ll be our friend. It just might change everything…or at least our little corner of it.
Dave Workman | Elemental Churches