“Dutch” is a mentally challenged man that lives at Impact! Church. Each day you can find him sitting near the front doors greeting people and inviting them to church. At night he sleeps in our sanctuary. We provide him with meals, clothes, basic hygiene and medical care. We do this because “Dutch” has no family, doesn’t really like living in homeless shelters and has “adopted” Impact! Church as his family. He considers me his pastor and I am honored to call him friend.
Recently I took on a new role in “Dutch’s” life – I became his barber. A few months back he announced that his hair was getting too long and he was “starting to look like a hippie”. He stated that he was too shaggy to be an effective greeter for Impact! Church and needed a haircut. I offered to take him to the barber, but instead he announced that I would be his new “stylist”. He handed me a pair of scissors and said, “Get after it…I have people to greet.” Luckily there was a set of nice electric hair trimmers and some better scissors around the office. Like we do quite often, I went to some videos online for basic skills training. After my crash course in YouTube hair styling I went to work on “Dutch”. It took me about an hour to get everything correct before his hair started looking good. Apparently “Dutch” was quite pleased with the results because he started telling other homeless people that Impact! Church had “professional barbers that gave out free haircuts”. Before the day was over I had cut hair for several other men in the neighborhood.
Since that day I have cut “Dutch’s” hair 3 more times. Why am I cutting hair for a homeless man? Because he is a part of the Impact! Church flock – I shepherd that flock – and sometimes the shepherd has to shear the sheep – literally. In essence it is Pastoring 101. The 30-45 minutes I get to spend with “Dutch” cutting his hair is quality time with one of my church members. We talk, joke around, laugh a lot and discuss the Bible. It has been one of the best forms of discipleship I have ever used.
Click here for more information about Impact! Church and our ministry to the impoverished, inner-city Parker Street community of Lakeland, Florida.
This was a conversation I had at Impact! Church yesterday. It is not paraphrased or embellished.
Her: (In tears) Can you help me? My babies and I are about to get kicked out of the hotel down the street?
Me: Which hotel?
Her: The (describes a flea-bag motel down the street that is a haven for drugs and prostitution) hotel.
Me: You have your kids there?
Her: We were living in the homeless jungle until two days ago (the jungle is a large patch of woods filled with homeless people making or using meth – a pretty dangerous place).
Her: I know, but my boyfriend – his father (points to the toddler playing on the Impact! Church sanctuary floor) – left us for a prostitute. We got evicted from our home and had no where else to go but the jungle.
Me; How did you get into the motel?
Her: I met a guy that told me he’d put us up for a few days.
Me: What happened? Why are you about to get evicted?
Her: He wanted something I was no longer wanting to give him…so he left. But he had paid me enough money to get us through Friday at the motel.
Me: Any place I can get you into is going to be checking for drugs. Have you used recently?
Me: Are you sure?
Me; But there are track marks on your arms.
Her: (Sobbing uncontrollably) I lied to you!
Me: Mam, please calm down. I am not here to judge you, but any long-term program we can get you and your children into is going to ask these questions. Lying only makes the process worse.
Her: I used heroin and meth two days ago. These guys told me that they would pay for another week at the hotel if I partied with them. I did, but they didn’t.
Me: (Noticing multiple bruises on her) Did they beat you?
Me: Do you want to press charges?
Her: NO! Please don’t call the police…I don’t want to upset them…they will come looking for me!
Me: Where were your kids during this?
Her: With a friend in another room. (Begins crying uncontrollably again) I am a horrible mother, but I was trying to keep my children under a roof for another day…keep food in their stomachs. I have never been homeless and have never been in this situation. My boyfriend has always taken care of us. He said he loved me…would care for me and the kids. He left us for a prostitute. I am such a fool…I just want to die.
Me: Mam, that would not be best for you or your children. What is it that you are truly looking for?
Her: Hope…and to know my kids will have a better life. I just need a fresh start…to learn to be a better person…a better mother. I have never been alone, but I don’t want to have to keep doing the things I do just to survive. Will you help me Pastor?
Me: Yes mam, we will.
And we did! Impact! Church provided them with food, clothes, some toys for the kids and prayed with them. This morning we are beginning the process to get her and her children into a program for displaced mothers. Over the next year she will go through counseling, training for self-sufficiency, have a place to live, the kids will be in school, they’ll attend attend Bible studies and church, they will help her get a job, get past the drugs, get past the emotional scars and help her set aside enough money that when she graduates the program she will be able to move into a house or apartment. In essence she and her kids will have a new life – a new future – and hope.
Too much is made of church size and what is perceived as successful. There is this belief in the church leadership world that only big churches are successful churches. We love to throw out the phrase “healthy things grow!” What a load! I’m 300 pounds because I am NOT healthy. At the same time too many small church pastors want to hurl accusations and dismiss big churches as “being shallow” and watering down the Gospel to attract people. Again…a load! Well…really a load based out of jealousy, but that is a subject for another blog post. Big churches, small churches and medium sized churches are all needed in the Kingdom of God. One size is no better than the other size. The SIZE of the church doesn’t determine the success of the church. The EFFECTIVENESS of the church determines the success of the church!
The SIZE of the church doesn’t determine the success of the church. The EFFECTIVENESS of the church determines the success of the church!
There are some amazing big churches out there that are effectively reaching their community for Jesus Christ. There are also a metric buttload of big churches that simply poached people from other churches in order to grow. There are a bunch of great small churches in this country that are truly serving their community and seeing people come to Christ because of it. There are also a metric buttload of small churches that have turned so far inward that nobody in their community would notice if they died. The size doesn’t matter – the effectiveness does.
So how is effectiveness measured? Well, in Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus is pretty clear about the two things that determine an effective church:
- Reaching the lost with the Word of God.
- Discipling followers of Christ.
An effective church basically shares the Gospel with a person far from God, baptizes them when they come to Christ and then walks them through the process of becoming a fully devoted follower of Christ. Some churches that effectively do this only have 20 people involved. Other churches that effectively do this have 20,000 people involved. God is just as overjoyed when one person goes through this process as He is when thousands of people go through it. The Scriptures record both the Ethiopian and the day of Pentecost. Both numbers are important in Scripture, because both numbers are about effectiveness. Pastor take heart. It doesn’t matter what size your church is. If you have seen 1 or 1,000 people come to Christ – and are now being discipled – you lead a successful church!