Can I Come to Your Church?

Early one Sunday morning, just before Christmas, the pastor of a small church in Oregon was putting the final touches on his sermon when he heard a muffled knock on his study door. Puzzled, he walked over and opened the door to find three small, disheveled children looking up at him: a five-year-old boy with his three-year-old brother and two-year-old sister. "Mister, can we see the church that brought us those Christmas presents?" the five-year-old asked shyly. Instantly the pastor realized who his guests were. A few weeks earlier the congregation had participated in Angel Tree®, a Prison Fellowship ministry that distributes Christmas gifts to children whose parents are in prison. The three children were one of the families church members had visited. Their father was behind bars; their mother involved in drugs and prostitution. "Of course you can see the church. Come on in." And the pastor led his guests around the small sanctuary. The children thanked him and waved good-bye, and the pastor returned to his sermon. About 15 minutes later, he heard another knock. It was the three children again. "What time does church start?" asked the five-year-old boy. "In an hour," the pastor replied. "We'll be back." Once again the children waved good-bye and trudged off. Fifteen minutes later, behold, again the three children stood at the door and knocked. "Is it okay for a person to come to church if his socks don't match?" asked the oldest boy. "Of course!" said the pastor. The child looked up again. "Is it okay to come if you don't have any socks at all?" "Of course," said the pastor. "Why do you ask?" "Well," said the little boy, "my socks don't match, and my brother here doesn't have any socks at all." "You can come just as you are," the pastor said with a smile, and he swept the two-year-old up in his arms as he ushered the children into the sanctuary. A couple sitting nearby kindly shepherded them through the unfamiliar service. But they were puzzled by a small paper bag the oldest boy was clutching. "We didn't know how long the service would last," he explained, "so we brought our lunch." Inside the bag was a single hot dog, which the children planned to share among the three of them. I’m sure I needn’t tell you that these youngsters were then taken up by several loving arms and became a permanent part of that small congregation. And all because of Angel Tree, which literally opened the door to a church they never would have dreamed of approaching on their own. I tell this story not only because it’s a wonderful example of how we should reach out to the needy at Christmas, but also because it is a metaphor for the church at large. "Go, make disciples," Jesus said. He didn't say, "Sit back and wait for the world to come to you." Here’s one congregation, I'm happy to say, that didn't sit back and wait for the people to come to them. They went out and brought God's love to a needy family that otherwise might never have darkened a church door. Their father may be in prison and their mother may be on drugs, but for these children there is now another world… a world bright with God's love.


Chuck Colson


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