Love Them First

By Ken Wiedrick (Reprinted with permission by Church of God Ministries News)

How can the church be in the world but not of the world? How does Jesus expect his Body to respond to those who don’t yet know him? What does it mean to be holy in an unholy world? Here is the story of one church that is trying to answer these questions in their community.

In 2001 New Life Christian Church was faced with a challenge. The challenge was how to respond to six hacky-sackers who had camped out behind the church. They were called hacky-sackers because they kicked bags filled with beans and smoked marijuana at the church during their school lunch break.Photo of Pastor Gordon Lawrence

There was a difference of opinion among those in the church about how to respond to the hacky-sackers. There were some who felt a fence ought to be built around the church property to keep the hacky-sackers out. Others saw the six as persons whom Jesus loves.

These drug-users posed several issues for the church. One, they were not helping the church establish healthy relationships with their neighbors. Two, they were littering church property. Three, their presence challenged the church people to think through what Jesus would do in such a situation.

In an effort to begin to address the challenges the group of students posed, the pastor, Gordon Lawrence, asked them to move to the front entrance of the church so that they would not aggravate the church’s relationship with its neighbors. The group gladly moved to the front entrance, enjoying the shelter of the canopy on rainy days. This led to yet another conundrum, what to do with the used joints that ended up on the ground near the church entryway. Answer: a simple coffee cup.

Jane, along others who call New Life their home church, began to pray for the hacky-sackers. The prayers soon turned into action. A bench was secured for the group. The church brought baked cookies for these “adopted friends” and left an encouraging note for them “from the New Life Community Church.” From a coffee cup to a bench, from a bench to cookies, it was then decided to offer a barbecue for the all of the youth of the high school at the end of thePhoto of New Life Christian Church building year. “We thought maybe 60 or 70 students might show up,” said Pastor Gordon, “but 140 students were fed that day. The best thing was, it was free. One student ran all the way back to the high school in disbelief shouting, “It’s free, it’s free, it’s free!”

For nine years, this Church of God congregation in Creston, British Colombia, has continued its intentional ministry to Prince Charles High School. Now they feed approximately 300 students every Friday with a hot lunch. The teachers at the high school say, “Friday used to be the worst day of the week to teach. Now it’s the best! The students look forward to Fridays and come back from lunch with a lot better attitudes!”

Practicing the “Great Commission” means we go into all the world – even if it is right outside our front door – and make God’s love known!

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