34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.
Earlier this month, I visited with three ladies that I have known for approximately fifteen years. Their ages range from early-40’s to early-60’s. They have some things in common:
- They live in the same housing projects, and even in the same circle, or cul-de-sac.
- I have had numerous studies and visits with them over the years; they have received the saving knowledge of our Lord.
- They have had spurts of attending church services over the years, even months at a time.
- They are friendly, and can bring a smile and laughter out of most people.
- I’ve hugged these ladies’ necks more than I can count.
They each, also, are ensnared in addiction to alcohol and drugs. As Jesus called to the crowd that day, so has He called these three women to follow Him; however, the commitment that comes with discipleship is great. The three women choose to hold on to – save their lives. The need to gratify their flesh – the addiction is strong. I won’t give up on them. Pray for them.
Has what we do at Inner City been a failure? No. Though the people and their circumstances might be different, the success rates of reaching to conversion are probably the same with every congregation. However, Russ Blackwell – an elder serving with the Cox BLVD congregation in Sheffield, Alabama has stated, now they have held two Back to the Bible campaigns, and are planning a third one this coming summer in July, that the ratio of door hangers turning into contacts, contacts turning into Bible studies, and Bible studies resulting in people being baptized has been greater in the inner city of Mobile than any other mission field they have conducted a campaign in to this date. As I have often said, the inner city is a ministry rich / target rich environment. We probably have the same conversion rate as you and your congregation has when you deliberately approach people with introducing them to the Gospel in the aggressive evangelistic outreach to your communities. Now, read that last sentence about four or five times, and some of you may have what I call an “ah ha!” moment. Love you.
Then, there is the picture I see on Sunday morning: Christians who are recovering / former addicts, people who use to steal as opposed to working for a living, as well as a former drug dealer; SHE is one of the most fervent and faithful of servants I have ever met!
As I close …
Two Sundays ago, the Inner City congregation had her regularly scheduled ‘Service Sunday’ (every third Sunday of the month), which would be akin to ‘Monday Night for the Master’. We eat a quick lunch after worship (10am), and Sunday school (11:15am-12:05pm), divide up into groups and head out on church vans to make visits in the community – we work my evangelism contacts list, and with our members who are sick or in the hospital.
Before heading out to the field, I explained to twenty-four of our number that participated that it would help to encourage people in the community to visit with us on Sunday if we each could express why we attend Inner City. I asked them, quite plainly, “why are you at Inner City?” What happened next floored me; in over twenty-five years of doing inner city work I’ve never experienced a greater moment! People who are typically reserved, especially when conveying intimate feelings with others in a public setting came out of their shells and opened up. The question I asked was not something I had planned to do, and was off the cuff, yet the answers they gave might have one think they were scripted; their answers were that well expressed!
Young and old alike shared with the rest of us. Many conveyed the same thoughts, but you could tell it was deeply personal to each individual. Of what they said, this is how everyone felt:
- At the Inner City church they felt accepted, and they felt they had a sense of belonging.
- They felt like the congregation is their church home.
- They saw us as being a family.
- They were loved and encouraged.
- They appreciated being included and challenged to be involved in the outreach to the community.
- They felt like Inner City was a place they could grow / mature.
Jane was there with me; she drove one of the three church vans that took a group into the field. Later, we reflected on the moment, and were amazed at what God has blessed us with!
Thank all of you for being such a blessing! Thanks for all your love, prayers, and support of the Lord’s work in the inner city of Mobile!
Chuck Griffis, Evangelist
Mobile Inner City Church of Christ