In this post, Sam Riviera continues his series of posts on how to be the church in your community. He asks what it looks like to proclaim the Gospel to your neighbors.
Many talk about being the church, but few know how. We understand church as those who follow Jesus, not just in “doctrine” or “belief” but out into the streets, among the people, mingling with them and loving them where they are. Being the church is as simple as loving the person in front of you right now.
Here are some examples of how this looks in our own life as we “preach sermons of love” where we live.
The Cheeseburger Lady
Yesterday I needed to pick up a couple of things at Costco. Since I had a little extra time, I visited all of the free food sample tables. I even tried a few of the samples, but mostly I talked to the people working the sample tables.
My first stop was the cheeseburger lady. Ravenous people who obviously hadn’t eaten in weeks grabbed wedges of cheeseburgers midair before the cheeeburger lady could even set the tray on the table. The tray was empty by the time she sat it down. Other people loudly complained to the cheeseburger lady that they didn’t get any. As she cut up more cheeseburgers behind a Plexiglas shield, one man reached his hand behind the shield, grabbing a chunk of cheeseburger, even when the cheeseburger lady asked him to please not do that.
The rude, unappreciative mob departed when the cheeseburgers ran out. The cheeseburger lady looked frazzled. I figured we had two or three minutes to talk while the next batch of cheeseburgers was warming in her little oven. I asked if she was having a bad day, and told her I understand because I used to be a caterer and experienced similar things – rude people grabbing food. She said it is true, that people are not nice to her, and that no one ever says thank you.
As the cheeseburgers finished cooking, we laughed together like old friends. Before the next mob arrived, she told me I could have as many samples as I liked. I took one, and made a special point of thanking her and telling her how much I appreciate her being there. The entire scenario probably took less time than it took you to read about it. I made a dear friend in less than three minutes. She was laughing and smiling and waved goodbye as I left.
I visited four more sample people. All were smiling or laughing when we parted. They made my day. I hope I helped brighten theirs. No Bible tracts, no Bible verses, no invitations to a “church service”. Just noticing and loving people. Maybe Jesus doesn’t visit Costco. If Jesus did, He’d probably stop by and chat with the cheeseburger lady (before going to the park).
Jesus Came to the Dance
After Costco I went home and my wife and I got ready to go to our weekly dance in Balboa Park, the largest park in San Diego. The building where we dance is often frequented by homeless people. After the dance had begun, a filthy homeless man walked into the room where we were dancing.
Standing near the door where he entered, I greeted him. He said “God bless you.” Homeless people frequently tell me that, so I didn’t think much about it. I headed to the kitchen where I was preparing ice cream for the break, and the homeless man appeared to be heading for the door.
However, after I left the room, he mingled with the dancers and told them he is Jesus. My wife recognized that he is probably suffering from mental illness. She asked him if he would like to step out on the patio with her and tell her about himself. They went out on the patio. The man told my wife about his doctor and treatments and then walked toward the zoo.
Was he a filthy mentally ill homeless person who thought he was Jesus, or was he in some sense Jesus? We may never know, but I know the church was there to treat him honorably and kindly and to listen to his story.
As we continue this series, we will continue to look for the church in the streets of San Diego “preaching sermons of love.” Have you seen the church in your community? Have you been the church in your community? Have you seen Jesus in your community? Please feel free to share your stories below.
Be the Church in Your CommunityWant to be the church in your community but don't know? Here are some posts which not only explain what it means to be the church in your community, but also gives concrete, practical examples of what it looks like and how to be the church whatever you do and wherever you go. Remember, you ARE the church, and wherever you go, Jesus goes with you!
- How to Be the Church in Your Community
- The Tribe and the Church
- Church Tribes vs. the Jesus Tribe
- How to Preach the Gospel to your Neighbors
- Being the Church is Loving the Person in Front of You
- 4 Practical Suggestions for Being the Church in your Community
- Love Like Jesus by Listening to People
- Welcome New People to the Community
- Finding Jesus in Denver
- Loving Others at Walmart
Taco Verhoef says
Great post Sam
Thank you Taco. I appreciate the comment.
Edwin Pastor FedEx Aldrich says
I just love the way your mind works. Being the church and preaching sermons of love to those around us. This is such great stuff, I cannot say enough about how much just treating a person with dignity, respect, and courtesy can proclaim about the God we serve. Unfortunately, many of those around us already have a loudly proclaiming Christian who acts exactly the opposite of the way you describe. I wonder how many of those rude shoppers have “Not of this World” or Fish stickers on their cars.
You’re funny, Edwin. I was afraid to follow the rude people because I’d get depressed when I saw all the Jesus stickers on their cars.
We know that most church people do not understand this stuff. When they ask “where do you go to church?” and we explain spending time with people and loving them, they look at us like we’re speaking an alien language, and then ask again, “But where do you go to church?”
“We take church to people.”
“Do you sing and pray with them?”
“We don’t sing, but we do pray with them when the ask us to.”
“Do you preach a sermon?”
“Sermons of love. We try to show people love.”
“So you preach?”
“We love on people. They get that.” (Implied: “But obviously you don’t.”)
I’m not trying to slam churches. Obviously churches are not our gig. Nor are they the gig of most people we know. They’re looking for something genuine and they never found that in any church.
Michael Kampff says
Great example to follow. Thank you!
Thank you for the encouragement Michael.
Thank you Sam for opening my eyes , you know I am in the transformation mode , God is transforming me so knowing how I can be the church where I live give me satisfaction to know there is so much I can do to love God’s people as he has loved me. To think there is a guy who has one leg in town I see him everyday but recently I have been real restless thinking about how come the guy is always there begging for food or money but there are people like me who are called Christian who pass by that place everyday , the other day I passed but somehow I decided let me go back and give him some money but I do feel it was not enough.
COLIOUS MANJEYA says
Meaning wherever we are we can preach sermons,
But love is the greatest in a christian life,
Love your neighbour not because he/she is rich like you,
but because we are ALL GOD’S children.
Refreshing post. This is what we’d like our church to understand! Thank you.