Recently CNN posted a video news item which inspired viewers. First UMC Charlotte NC has a thriving homeless ministry. Breakfast and worship services are held each Sunday morning, which IMHO is the best way to encourage socio-economic diversity for any congregation. During the time for tithes and offering in one Sunday morning worship service a homeless person put in the plate 18 cents. Written on the outside of that envelope was "Please forgive me, this is all I have."
CNN latched onto this human interest story with a follow up question for the pastor, "Will you try to identify the homeless person who gave all he/she had in this envelope?" The pastor replied "We, of course, will respect the giver's right to privacy but yes, we would love to have the giver's identity. Whoever gave this money will find many members of this church are ready and able to provide financial assistance in order for them to get back on their feet."
Let me first say, "great work 1st UMC Charlotte! You are the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in your ministry WITH the homeless!" I will follow that up with a plea for 1st UMC Charlotte to develop some street smarts. Street smarts comes by way of story. As a pastor of ministry with the homeless in San Antonio, during the Sunday morning breakfast time, I found a 6 pack of beer outside on church grounds. I went in for a teaching moment at the microphone with our guests. "Whoever left this 6 pack of beer behind the bushes, outside the church needs to be reminded to respect this place and refrain from bringing alcohol on the premises. All is forgiven but please don't do it again. Please be honest, tell me who is the rightful owner." 21 hands immediately shot up into the air. I laughed at myself for being such a clueless idiot.
Of this I am certain....Just as there were in San Antonio, there are a lot of hustlers on the streets of Charlotte NC. I will guarantee that not one, but many folks have reported that they were the giver of that 18 cents with the expectation that God will bless them with many dollars from kind, sincere church folk wanting to help those less fortunate than themselves. Street smarts is an essential ingredient for all ministry with the homeless