Several years ago, when my family and I lived in Davao City, in the island of Mindanao, Philippines, we started a small church in the town of Digos with a few members. At that time, we were renting a small room in an average-looking restaurant for our worship services. A number of the people who attended church were farmers and poor people.
I remember one worship service in particular.
We arrived at the place and found another group using our worship room. They were having a wedding. The owner apologized and told us to use another place to worship. I was expecting another room; however, she directed us at the back of the restaurant and there it was — our worship place – a chicken coop! There were literally a few chicken still inside. Since we had no choice, we set up the chairs and had worship with a few chicken. All I remember was, we all had a great time. There was a feeling of exhilaration knowing that we were celebrating and exalting our Lord, even in a chicken coop!
Many Christian churches around the world meet in worse places. Others have to hide for fear of persecution. Some meet in caves, forests, or just under any shaded trees. I forgot when and which church, but I have experienced having worship services under an acacia tree. In most prosperous nations, Christians forget their calling of reaching to the most needy. Instead, they often seek churches that are wealthy, popular, and with lots of programs.
Early New Testament Christians were known for their passion for Jesus and compassion for the lost. They think of what God wants them to do: to serve. It is sad that many today look for churches with wealth and wealthy people. Some join churches to get customers for their businesses. Some join churches to get connections with the popular and influential. The disciples of Jesus gave their lives to serve God’s people and to give Jesus the glory by reaching out to the poor and the rejects of the society.
Some churches in Asia worship with the undesirable people of the society. I have read of churches for people with leprosy. This is possible because there were Christian leaders who were willing to live with them.
I know someone who decided to move his family to a garbage dump community to live with the people whose main livelihood is to find what they can recycle from the garbage. His intention was to plant a church – and he did! I had the chance to visit that community and if you are not used to the smell, you will faint.
Here is what I have learned: Among the lowly and the downtrodden, the rejected of this world, God’s Kingdom takes root.
Taking God’s assignment seriously means that we must learn to look at the world from God’s viewpoint. Sometimes, it looks upside down. Instead of seeking out people with resources who can do us favors, we look for people with few resources. Instead of looking for the beautiful and good-looking types, we find those who the society rejects. Those who have nothing to show. Those who are not cool. Those who are not popular.
Instead of looking for the strong, we find the weak. Instead of the healthy, we find the sick. Instead of the spiritual, we find the sinful.
After all, is this not how God reconciles Himself to the world? Do you remember when Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick… I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12-13 NIV)?
I am not saying God does not care for the beautiful and the wealthy. He does. He loves all humanity. Even the so-called wealthy and beautiful need God. Many of them live empty lives.
What I am just asking is this: Do we see the needy through the eyes of Jesus? Do we have Jesus’ genuine love and compassion for them?