One Sunday morning, in the Spring of 1983, I had a revelation. It was one of those awesome moments when the little dots in my head were suddenly connected by a blood red line drawn by the Hand of God. I was serving in a church in the inner city of Southwest Houston. Five years earlier, I had come to the church when it was an affluent, growing church that was ranked nationally in the top 10 churches for income. It was a wonderful congregation with one service on Sunday morning and one at night. Life was good.
But over the last few years, the economy had turned upside down. Luxury condominiums across the street went bankrupt, and the city turned them into housing for the homeless and destitute. Our neighborhood was immersed into drugs, alcohol, prostitution, and bridge-dwellers. Some other churches left the area and moved to the safer suburbs. But, we made the conscious decision to stay, and to open the church doors, and our hearts, to the suddenly diverse and multi-ethnic community. To say that everything changed is a major understatement.
We were now right-side up in an upside down world!
By 1983, we had three morning services, with thousands of people from every walk of life. Our nurseries were filled with children of many races playing together in harmony. My daughters had friends from Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Central and South America. Covered dish events were amazing! Worship services were punctuated with joyful praise in various foreign languages. Ethnic dress was welcomed and appreciated. But we knew that the main thing that was holding us together was the Presence of the Holy Spirit and our genuine love for each other.
Which brings me to that significant day in 1983. I had forgotten something in my car, and while the service was in session, I slipped out to the parking lot. I never made it because people would stop to talk. They would hug my neck, tell me about their children, and ask me to pray for a need. One man introduced me to his mother who was visiting the United States for the first time. She spoke no English. Instead, she grabbed my shoulders and gave me a kiss and hug that has lasted to today. I broke down crying. It was overwhelming love.
Instead of going back to the service, I went to my office and asked God what was happening. He gently told me that I was now a pastor to all of them, any of them, the least and greatest of them. He said that it was a fragile calling that would crumble if I ever mistreated or deliberately hurt any of the innocent lambs He sent into my care. I was to not look on their skin color, dress, or appearance, only on their heart. Then, He placed in my spirit three thoughts to live by:
1. We are all of one blood – Genesis 1-2
2. Jesus came for everybody – John 3:16
3. God desires worship from all people – Isaiah 43:7
From that time to this, I am a changed man. All lives are important to Christ. We should be able to live and worship together in harmony and praise. God is our Father. We must quash our racism and prejudice, and exhibit to a lost world the spectacle of united adoration of God. Agree?