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1 hour ago, MacGyver said:

Okay, I’ve gotten some time to come up for air. I’ve reread everything here and will offer a few thoughts.

Upfront, there will certainly be folks who disagree with me.  Take these thoughts for what they are, and maybe use them to process your own church’s response. It sounds like you’ve got a good engaged leadership.  

First, this is absolutely Kingdom work.  

Scripture is concerned with three types of people over and over again - the sojourner, the widow, and the orphan. You might argue that a young drug addict doesn’t fall into any of these categories. But, he’s clearly an “other” who society has little use for.

Jesus would see this young man and engage with him. This young man is Jesus’s kind of person. 

Second, working with folks like this is a long effort. It’s dirty.  It’s personal.  It can be life changing - for the people doing the work as well as the person being helped. When you decide to help - it will change the way that you see things.  

Things are rarely as simple as we like to try to see them.  And working with folks with needs like these will change the way you see things.  We’re a small church (150 on a good Sunday) and have worked regularly with 3 or 4 folks who’ve struggled with addiction and homelessness for years now - literally 8 years in a couple of the cases.  There are rarely any clean breaks.  We work towards that - but there are definitely systemic issues that make it tough. Be prepared for the long haul. 

Third, there are going to be some people who will be quite vocal in opposing working with this young man.  The way I think about this is sort of like this - if this is Kingdom work - it’s very much at the border of the Kingdom. We’ve built our comfortable suburban churches to be at what we see as the center of the Kingdom. So, we rarely have to get our hands dirty if we don’t want to - and a lot of us don’t want to - so we’re really uncomfortable with it when we experience it. Think of a person who’s only ever bought meat neatly shrink wrapped at the grocery store suddenly having to slaughter their own meat. Many really aren’t going to like it.  

—-

File this next part under the thoughts of a church of Christ guy who is deeply skeptical of some of the ways we’ve organized our churches today.  What I’m about to say is likely to offend a lot of folks. Feel free to skip ahead. 

I’m deeply skeptical of the “security teams” that we’re organizing in a lot of our churches. We’ve organized these suburban churches that give us these curated experiences that make us feel good about our personal relationships with Jesus.  But, do we see the Gospel in our churches?

if we’re not careful - the illusion of security in our churches can become idolatrous.  I think we really need to struggle with this more than we do.  

To go back to my Kingdom language from earlier, I think we see ourselves as being close to the center of the Kingdom. But, I reality we’ve created these cloistered, walled off churches and don’t realize that we’re way more isolated than we think we are.  Jesus referred to folks like this as whitewashed tombs once upon a time - and I think It’s probably worth holding up  mirror every now and then and taking a good hard look. 

The irony of it is, we don’t realize it - but we’re not fully experiencing the Kingdom either. There’s a rich seven course meal waiting, but we’ve convinced ourselves that the stale sandwiches we’re eating are as good as it gets.

This young man is isolated in ways that are public. But, what we don’t realize is that a lot of us experience isolation in ways that are just as debilitating - but we suffer in private. 

One of the things that we’ve lost in the modern Western church is that historically  there was no idea of personal salvation.  Redemption and salvation was delivered through community.  

I’d offer for though that by leaving our comfort and heading to the borders of the Kingdom, we might find that salvation comes to us all.  

Happy to discuss this further out of this thread.

—-

Back to this young man, I’d offer some pragmatic thoughts.  

1. Let your safety team operate as sort of “congregational concierges.” I think we see shootings and want to see the outsider as an opposition force.  But, in the Kingdom, everyone is welcome. This young man may in fact go to the front of the line at the proverbial wedding banquet.  We need people on these teams who default to being welcome and generous. 

2. This young man may not be in a place where he’s ready to accept help.  He may not know that he needs help.  But, if we figure that God brings people though our doors for a reason - then we need to see him and invite him into the Kingdom.  

3. But, it’s okay to set some ground rules. Sort of a framework like - we’re happy to help - but you can’t be high at services.  You cannot ask members for money.  Appoint a point of contact (maybe a deacon) and funnel through that person. 

4. Think about other resources in your congregation who might be able to help. For instance, you might have folks who would never volunteer for a “safety team” - but who work in other helpful spaces.  In our church, we have nurses, a mental health resource, people who work in non profits in housing, and social workers.  The value that they bring to the table is infinite. And, it’s great to see them use their professional talents for the Kingdom. 

5. Consider outside help.  We put something in place a while back where we basically subsidize counseling for our members. Specifically, any member of our church can go to counseling for $5 per session - which basically rounds to free.  We pay $70 as a church to make up the difference.  I see both the bills and the uptake in our church - and from a pastoral perspective, this is probably the best money we spend in a given year.  You’re in middle Tennessee - so I could put you in touch with resources that could set something like this up. 

6. Scaffold your help. This is a long effort and there is some fatigue that can go along with it.  Have that point person or persons - but check in regularly and have your elders keep up with what’s going on. 

7. Work towards reconciliation.  This young man needs healing - and his family needs to be a part of it. He and they may not be ready for it - but it’s worth looping back on. 

8. Know that the Holy Spirit certainly plays the long game and will work in ways that we cannot even fathom if we’ll just make room for it to happen.

That was a long answer to your question - but know you’re doing Kingdom work. Certainly my prayers are with you. 

Happy to talk further if it’s helpful. 

Much good here. And lots to think on as to how we relate to people everywhere.

One situation that causes me to think a lot is the "street sellers...the paper vendors...to the outright beggers." 

I see so many that say they are in need of help and this is the way they live day to day. The only thing they can do. Really?

Personally, except in rare instances, I believe if you can stand on a street corner or in an intersection for 8 hours a day, you are able to do work of some sort. If you can have cigarettes and cell phones while doing this...I question your motives, if not your character.

I've heard said that some of these are God's Angels in disguise, testing how we respond. True or not, how we handle this is telling of our spirit.

I'm weak, I know that. I don't always stop or slow down to ask or to give money. I use my questionable judgement to decide who I should give to.

My decision. My very small attempt to help. My failure?

Is this wrong? Am I passing judgement on someone simply because of the superficial things I see?

Probably yes in both cases.

In true faith and love, we are called to help...everyone. But I fear that I, and others around us, have become so jaded in our own little worlds that we become an arbiter of judgement. Not helpers and healers of men.  

I have failed in this. I admit it. I have failed in much in this world, and it weighs upon me.

I miss the old country church I went to as a child. Life was simpler then...more black and white, good and evil...faith was a constant, a power in our lives.

For many reasons, we have strayed from it. So have I.

My vague, rambling commentary may have some nuggets of truth. You decide.

Edited by hipower
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After more discussions, apparently our church leadership has decided his soul is valuable to them and God.  They intend to help this young man if at all possible, but will not put up with continual problems caused by this young man. They will not tolerate church panhandling nor distractions caused by this guy and have told him so recently. If he is serious about self improvement they will do what they can to try and aid that, but will not hesitate to tell him not to come back if problems continue. They also told him they were not equipped to handle some of his problems (IE mental and drug), but have located a place for him to seek counseling, through our local Health Department, if he wants to do that. Evidently his parents told them he was not a danger to anyone, "if you can believe that". I am real concerned about that one and time will tell. They do not want to call Police, for now, but if they need to tell him not to come back, it is their intention to call them and make him known to them.


They said they had to consider, "What would Jesus do in this situation," and they are concerned for this young man's soul even though he is not a member of our group at this time. May God help us!

He never attended Wednesday night services of this week. We will see what transpires this coming Sunday. Wish I could say more.

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My church had a very similar situation. Long story short they told him we was not to come back until after he received intensive counseling of which the church would pay for.  I haven’t seen him since but he was very very disturbed and it made everyone uncomfortable. 

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I agree with you all on informing the Police. I told them in order to not give him someone to place the blame on, and "Possibly" take revenge on, to just tell him that the Safety Team recommended that he be asked not to come back until he is serious about self improvement and leaving the drugs alone. By all means he is not welcomed if he is 

I believe if he shows up and creates another disruption, our leaders will be asking him not to return until he is better. I know many in our church has expressed dissatisfaction with him and his disruptions. Some are scared of him. For sure when he exited the building with the church directory and asking members for money. This problem has been removed and the directory will not be on display again. They also have told him not to be asking for money, and informed the members not to give him cash, which they believe he is using to purchase drugs with.

These kind of problems are seeming to be finding our church, more and more, as time goes on. This kid was raised in the church and, IMO, is using his Christian connections to fund his habit. I for one don't care to participate. I am not sure if he even has a job. 

I don't know how many more times the leadership will tolerate this guy before asking him to not come back. I do understand their desire to help this guy but, IMO, he has to want to help himself. IMO, that is the problem, he does not have the desire to help himself.

I also don't know the extent of his mental state. That really concerns me. Mixing mental problems with drug use is a recipe for disaster. We have already seen several serious problems, right here in middle TN, with the problem people. They are too numerous to mention all of them, but the worst was the Antioch church shooting. That perp was just given life without parole on the murder one charge with 42 other counts he will be sentenced on by the judge. That does very little to repay the 9 people he killed or injured with his outburst of anger, and all the people this thug has disrupted their lives. Most will never be the same.   

I don't want that to happen to our church. I too have compassion for his soul, but also care for the safety of our families. 

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26 minutes ago, pop pop said:

I don't want that to happen to our church. I too have compassion for his soul, but also care for the safety of our families. 

You have made a transition to a Sheepdog. Or you may have always been one; but you now hold a position of one. Many people change when they work security or become a Police Officer. The priorities of you as a church member are different than those of you as a security team member. There is nothing wrong with that. But if you feel conflicted; pick one side or the other. Both sides are the “right” side. It’s just not worth trying that straddle that line.

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This guy did not show up at church yesterday, or last Wednesday night. Since no one is giving him cash, and the other brother is not allowing him to stay in his house, maybe he will find more fertile ground for his cause. We hope this works out for the best, and the problem goes away. Time will tell.

I just don't think this guy is ready to get off the drugs, and without that there is not much hope for him to better himself. 

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1 hour ago, pop pop said:

This guy did not show up at church yesterday, or last Wednesday night. Since no one is giving him cash, and the other brother is not allowing him to stay in his house, maybe he will find more fertile ground for his cause. We hope this works out for the best, and the problem goes away. Time will tell.

I just don't think this guy is ready to get off the drugs, and without that there is not much hope for him to better himself. 

Spread the word with neighboring churches. I suspect they'd appreciate a heads up. 

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On ‎7‎/‎22‎/‎2019 at 8:49 AM, peejman said:

Spread the word with neighboring churches. I suspect they'd appreciate a heads up. 

That is an excellent idea! I attend a church that has a small congregation, usually 60 or so on Sunday mornings. We would certainly appreciate a heads up on a situation like this.

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On 7/18/2019 at 10:57 AM, MacGyver said:

Okay, I’ve gotten some time to come up for air. I’ve reread everything here and will offer a few thoughts.

Upfront, there will certainly be folks who disagree with me.  Take these thoughts for what they are, and maybe use them to process your own church’s response. It sounds like you’ve got a good engaged leadership.  

First, this is absolutely Kingdom work.  

Scripture is concerned with three types of people over and over again - the sojourner, the widow, and the orphan. You might argue that a young drug addict doesn’t fall into any of these categories. But, he’s clearly an “other” who society has little use for.

Jesus would see this young man and engage with him. This young man is Jesus’s kind of person. 

Second, working with folks like this is a long effort. It’s dirty.  It’s personal.  It can be life changing - for the people doing the work as well as the person being helped. When you decide to help - it will change the way that you see things.  

Things are rarely as simple as we like to try to see them.  And working with folks with needs like these will change the way you see things.  We’re a small church (150 on a good Sunday) and have worked regularly with 3 or 4 folks who’ve struggled with addiction and homelessness for years now - literally 8 years in a couple of the cases.  There are rarely any clean breaks.  We work towards that - but there are definitely systemic issues that make it tough. Be prepared for the long haul. 

Third, there are going to be some people who will be quite vocal in opposing working with this young man.  The way I think about this is sort of like this - if this is Kingdom work - it’s very much at the border of the Kingdom. We’ve built our comfortable suburban churches to be at what we see as the center of the Kingdom. So, we rarely have to get our hands dirty if we don’t want to - and a lot of us don’t want to - so we’re really uncomfortable with it when we experience it. Think of a person who’s only ever bought meat neatly shrink wrapped at the grocery store suddenly having to slaughter their own meat. Many really aren’t going to like it.  

—-

File this next part under the thoughts of a church of Christ guy who is deeply skeptical of some of the ways we’ve organized our churches today.  What I’m about to say is likely to offend a lot of folks. Feel free to skip ahead. 

I’m deeply skeptical of the “security teams” that we’re organizing in a lot of our churches. We’ve organized these suburban churches that give us these curated experiences that make us feel good about our personal relationships with Jesus.  But, do we see the Gospel in our churches?

if we’re not careful - the illusion of security in our churches can become idolatrous.  I think we really need to struggle with this more than we do.  

To go back to my Kingdom language from earlier, I think we see ourselves as being close to the center of the Kingdom. But, in reality we’ve created these cloistered, walled off churches and don’t realize that we’re way more isolated than we think we are.  Jesus referred to folks like this as whitewashed tombs once upon a time - and I think It’s probably worth holding up  mirror every now and then and taking a good hard look. 

The irony of it is, we don’t realize it - but we’re not fully experiencing the Kingdom either. There’s a rich seven course meal waiting, but we’ve convinced ourselves that the stale sandwiches we’re eating are as good as it gets.

This young man is isolated in ways that are public. But, what we don’t realize is that a lot of us experience isolation in ways that are just as debilitating - but we suffer in private. 

One of the things that we’ve lost in the modern Western church is that historically  there was no idea of personal salvation.  Redemption and salvation was delivered through community.  

I’d offer for thought that by leaving our comfort and heading to the borders of the Kingdom, we might find that salvation comes to us all.  

Happy to discuss this further out of this thread.

—-

Back to this young man, I’d offer some pragmatic thoughts.  

1. Let your safety team operate as sort of “congregational concierges.” I think we see shootings and want to see the outsider as an opposition force.  But, in the Kingdom, everyone is welcome. This young man may in fact go to the front of the line at the proverbial wedding banquet.  We need people on these teams who default to being welcome and generous. 

2. This young man may not be in a place where he’s ready to accept help.  He may not know that he needs help.  But, if we figure that God brings people though our doors for a reason - then we need to see him and invite him into the Kingdom.  

3. But, it’s okay to set some ground rules. Sort of a framework like - we’re happy to help - but you can’t be high at services.  You cannot ask members for money.  Appoint a point of contact (maybe a deacon) and funnel through that person. 

4. Think about other resources in your congregation who might be able to help. For instance, you might have folks who would never volunteer for a “safety team” - but who work in other helpful spaces.  In our church, we have nurses, a mental health resource, people who work in non profits in housing, and social workers.  The value that they bring to the table is infinite. And, it’s great to see them use their professional talents for the Kingdom. 

5. Consider outside help.  We put something in place a while back where we basically subsidize counseling for our members. Specifically, any member of our church can go to counseling for $5 per session - which basically rounds to free.  We pay $70 as a church to make up the difference.  I see both the bills and the uptake in our church - and from a pastoral perspective, this is probably the best money we spend in a given year.  You’re in middle Tennessee - so I could put you in touch with resources that could set something like this up. 

6. Scaffold your help. This is a long effort and there is some fatigue that can go along with it.  Have that point person or persons - but check in regularly and have your elders keep up with what’s going on. 

7. Work towards reconciliation.  This young man needs healing - and his family needs to be a part of it. He and they may not be ready for it - but it’s worth looping back on. 

8. Know that the Holy Spirit certainly plays the long game and will work in ways that we cannot even fathom if we’ll just make room for it to happen.

That was a long answer to your question - but know you’re doing Kingdom work. Certainly my prayers are with you. 

Happy to talk further if it’s helpful. 

Very well presented.

I will opine this:

The church with the little "c" and the Church with the big "C" are two different entities. The big C will take care of this issue. The little c is ill-equipped to handle such problems.

Be prepared by knowing the difference.

Something to look at is where the parking lot and pews start filling.

Parking lot at the rear and pew at the front signals a lot of "C" present.

edit: forgot the 80/20 rule...

Edited by beebee233

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MacGyver your July 18 post is a big hammer that squarely hits the nail. Thank you for your insight.

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Pastoral work is rarely easy.  It’s hard and dirty. We’re not tossing a rope down into a hole and hoping the person climbs out on their own. So often, we’re climbing down into that hole with them and saying, “let’s figure out a way to get out of here together.”

All I know is that when a person finds their way through our doors, they should encounter Jesus.

Anything less and we ought to just shut the doors - we’d be just as well at the gym or the coffee shop or the bar down the street. 

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