Numerous people have frozen to death in America this winter. They literally died from exposure to the cold.
In nearby Evansville, Indiana a homeless man was found in his routine sleeping spot after a night of frigid temperatures. He was dead. Like any of us, he could not survive trying to sleep in the sub-zero temperature.
Police reportedly told the homeless man that he needed to seek shelter, or he wouldn’t survive. I do not know why he was homeless. I do not know why he wasn’t in the local homeless shelter. With any such tragic death there are always questions, speculation, and seldom not enough answers.
Possibly there wasn’t enough room in the shelter. Maybe he just ignored reason and thought he could survive.
I do know it’s easy to tell someone “You need to eat,” but maybe they don’t have any money to buy food. Or we tell a homeless person, “You need to get off the street and seek shelter.” What if he or she has no place to go? Homeless shelters have limitations and maybe some wear out their welcome.
I see a homeless person and can’t keep from thinking, “This is someone’s father or son. This is someone’s mother or daughter. This could be me or someone I know.” All of us are one bad decision from being homeless. By the grace of God, I hope no one reading this column is without a place to sleep or food to eat.
I have to wonder why some churches aren’t unlocked on these frigid nights. Churches talk about ministry, caring, love, reaching out, helping others, and other religious talk. For the average church in America, it will be a cold day in hell before they ever unlock their doors and let a bunch of homeless people sleep on the pews.
Of course, we can’t be too hard on our churches. Homeless people can be scary. They are very needy. They need money, food, and clothes. They need everything. They may have mental issues. They may have criminal records. Who knows?
There is always the consideration of who would monitor the church and the crowd sleeping in the church? They need access to bathrooms. They need food. The whole idea scares most churches.
The average church would rather send their money to their denominational headquarters in the big city. Many churches give up to 20% and sometimes more to the denominational state headquarters. Often the state level headquarters send a large amount on up to the national headquarters. These entities tell local churches about how much good their money is doing to help others across the state, nation and around the world.
They pat the local churches on the back. Recognize the pastor at state meetings. Print the church name on the denominational website or publication. The local church and local pastor sit back and think, “We are really special because we send all this money out of town to do such great ministry.”
At the state denominational headquarters and national headquarters, the big dog people are collecting $150,000 to $250,000 a year while on the national level there are reported salary packages of over a half million dollars a year. This is of course all done in the name of the Lord and service to Christ.
Back at home, the homeless sleep on the sidewalks while the church doors are locked. Kids go to school with inadequate coats and shoes. Families in the community can’t afford to keep their utility bills paid or buy groceries. So many of these same churches send their money out of town every month while paying their own pastor a minimal income. They can’t afford to pay for their custodial care or take very good care of their own staff because they are sending money down to the state office.
I hope we will wake up in this country and in our local churches. We have severe needs and opportunities to do a great service right in front of us. It’s not wrong to send money out to help others, but we need to see what and who are right in front of us and do ministry at our own front door.