The Farmer’s Tale in City Streets.
Today I was trying to outline our strategy for ministry to a young man I am hoping will come on our staff to be a community evangelist. We spoke together of the challenge of reaching children and seeing how excited they are when someone enters their life and loves on them. We remembered children who were so bright eyed in coming to Bible clubs, Sunday School, tutoring, summer camp. Then we spoke about what seems to happen in middle school and when kids reach puberty. Of all the many children we first met, of all the children we have shared Jesus with and included in our ministry and programs, so many of them have wandered away as they entered the teen years. Boys making girls pregnant, producing more girls and boys. The good news is there have been a few that have hung on, followed Jesus, and given back to the Lord. The tragedy is that most have not. We spoke of the challenge of how over the lifetime of our ministry we have seen the inner city community go from a culture that had a church tradition (at least somewhere in the extended family) to the current culture where we now see grandparents who themselves did not grow up in church, with that repeated in their children and their grandchildren. We encounter African American kids with absolutely no experience of church, and that is something that has radically changed in the South. :Unfortunately I also spoke today to a grandmother who did grow up in our church, (I have known her since she was a girl herself) whose daughter has been making babies by different men, and whose lifestyle forced the State to take away her children. This neglectful mother did grow up in our church, but the culture and drugs of the inner city seems to have won, for now. When I say “for now” I imply that the story is not finished yet, because we have seen that to be true as well. We have seen kids we invested in, loved on, pursued and prayed for but who then seemed to disappear come back, sometimes years later. The seed of the Word finally took root, and they came home, to the Lord Jesus and to church. This reality gives us hope, that the Word does not return to God empty, that the Word is on a mission and it will accomplish its’ mission. What this says to me is that evangelism to urban children must be pursued, no matter how tough it is to continue it as they grow up. No matter how many obstacles get thrown our way by dysfunctional lifestyles, we must take the Gospel to the poor. It may not bear fruit right away, and the fruit might seem to fall off and away before we have a chance to pick it, but if the seed takes root, and if God has made their heart good soil it is going to bear fruit, maybe to a hundred fold. There will be no fruit if no seed is sown, that is simply the way it works. If we don’t give up we shall reap. Even if we have to go out weeping, if we bear precious seed, we are going to bring back big bunches of the harvest. So the battle rages not just in the hearts of the children, or their parents, but in mine as well. It is like the farmer listening to the birds who steal the seed, to the insects that devour the plants, to the drought and sun that burns them. They all say, “stop wasting your time, it is hopeless, we will destroy all you sow.” And I almost believe them, until I see a face I knew once as a little kid, now grown, now singing, now serving, now lifting holy hands to Jesus. That face may have gone through all kinds of pain, all kinds of trial, even failure, but there was something planted deep in their heart that has maybe only now grown fruit. And as I sit watching the harvest, even at what I would call a banquet table of those who speak my name and say, “I remember when you came and got me, I remember when you took me here and there, I remember when you told me…” I forget the words of the birds, the bugs, or the heat. I’m too busy eating, feasting, on what has grown.