Are the people around you struggling in some area of life? Maybe the real question is: Are you attentive enough that you would notice?
Let’s face it, we tend to have pretty shallow relationships with most of the people we cross paths with every day. We ask co-workers how they’re doing when we pass in the hall, but we expect a generic “fine, thank you,” rather than a genuine answer.
It could be that someone near us is having a rough go of it, but we’d never notice because we’re too wrapped up in our own daily routines. Extend that mindset outward to the community we live in, and it’s no surprise that a lot of hurting, broken people go unseen.
One of the goals of Focus on the Family is to empower people to engage our culture for Christ.
Many Christians hunker down, hoping that God will work through someone else to impact the culture. We don’t want to be uncomfortable, so we don’t reach out to our neighbors, and we certainly don’t seek out the misfits of society. We spend time with people who talk like us, act like us, and who don’t require anything of us.
I think that’s a mistake. We have to act. We have to be engaged.
Today, we’re going to talk with a special guest who, along with his church, has done a marvelous job of demonstrating the power of extending a helping hand to the downtrodden of society.
Matthew Barnett is the pastor of Angeles Temple in Los Angeles, currently serving over 80,000 individuals and families each month. Their church also runs the Dream Center, a 400,000-square foot building where 700 people now live, including homeless families, runaway teenagers, and young girls formerly trapped as sex-trafficking victims.
At the ripe old age of 20, Matthew moved into the inner city of Los Angeles to start a church. But after intense soul searching, he realized that God didn’t want him to be a pastor, He wanted Matthew to be, as he described it, “a city janitor.”
That meant his ministry was to walk the streets of Los Angeles, looking for broken people and telling them about the love of Jesus Christ and encouraging them to believe that He can set them free to overcome their troubles and to dream again.
That personal, in-the-trenches approach sounds like the work of the early church to me. And it ought to be the work of the church today, even though it’s hard, dirty work meeting people at the point of their deepest need.
Government programs can throw money at situations, but the Gospel can change everything about a person’s life.
Matthew regularly encounters people in his church who are so transformed from their pasts he forgets they were once heroin addicts, or trapped in abusive relationships and sex trafficking.
The stories of transformation Matthew tells are amazing. But what about the rest of us? Most of us aren’t pastors of a church of thousands of people or positioned to impact the lives of the most broken in our society. What can we do? That’s what we’ll discuss over the next couple of programs.
You may not walk the mean streets of L.A. or even the rough neighborhoods in your own community. You may not rescue drug addicts from their addictions or young girls from the world of sex trafficking. You may even ask, “What can I do? I’m not a Matthew Barnett or a Billy Graham.”
To that I would say, God already has a Matthew Barnett. He has a Billy Graham. Maybe what he needs is you.
What is God asking you to do? It starts by living intentionally. Open your eyes to the people who surround you every single day. You can minister out of your own experiences to reach people within your circle of influence, even if it’s just one person.
As Matthew says, “You don’t have to look far, just look everywhere because everywhere you look, there’s a need.”