Christian outreach is often work. It means walking about with friends, passing out literature, spreading the Word. In our church, this explicit sort of evangelism often has at its center what we, for some obscure reason, call the Visitation Committee.
The new chair is a woman I have considered a bit of a personal hero for a few years now. She rather heroically has taken the lead in caring for her elderly mother-in-law who seems still to see her as not quite good enough to have married into the family. She routinely goes above and beyond.
Last week she sent out an email to several active members telling them of her progress with "Visitation". She had gone to the church last Saturday to organize groups. Members were to place little door hangers she had designed around the neighborhood. They are attractive pieces inviting folks to our weekly contemporary service. When she arrived at the church, she found herself there alone. Nobody has showed up. Nobody.
This month carries a rough schedule for me. A discussion group I lead Sunday nights requires more preparation and introspection than I had anticipated. So I suppose I felt the Lord would understand if I slept in one morning. But her message bothered me. The picture in my mind of this self-sacrificing lady alone at church waiting for volunteers who never came, well, it was not tolerable.
So yesterday, I made it a point. She, her grown daughter, and two beautiful little grandkids, and I made the rounds together. The weather was nice, and we did come across a few very gracious folks, although hanging stuff on doors does not involve meeting many people. It was a pleasant walk.
Last Sunday, a lady at church told a joke. A puppy is not allowed to accompany a boy into a school. God descends and consoles the pup. "They won't let me in either." I don't think she knew the joke is an adaptation of a story from segregation days and all white churches.
The movement to involve government in spreading Christianity has been in decline. But the impulse remains strong. Schools and public gatherings are focal points. I confess to a certain empathy with those who want to force other people's children to listen to God's word, or who demand that public funds, buildings, or even gatherings be enlisted to spread the good news of the transformative power of Jesus. Getting government involved in evangelism is coercive and immoral. A few churches argue that it is satanic.
But, for many of my Christian brethren, a captive audience does beat investing Saturday mornings going door to door.
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