“Now, I’m not saying this to seek pity. I actually noticed something else I think is much more significant than being left out.”
These were some of the last words sent to me by my friend Kevin who passed yesterday. Allow me to give a little context and change some names so as not to offend.
“This morning there was a party for my buddy Frank at our prayer house and homeless center because he’s leaving to go to another state. Some of the people who speak at center throughout the week were there, which includes various local pastors, retired pastors, outreach pastors, worship leaders etc. In addition, there were a few other pastors and organizations who support the center financially. Now, John was the leader of one of those organizations. I have known him for over ten years, we took over The center together in 2009 and I have faithfully served the homeless there from the very beginning when it was just me and him. We were there longer than anyone else in the room. Interestingly enough, John called every pastor and every other person who frequently speaks at the center up to the front, individually by name, to pray over Frank and his wife and send them out, with the exception of one person. Me. I know he couldn’t have missed seeing me either, because I was standing right next to his wife, who was one of the first people he called up.
Now, I’m not saying this to seek pity. I actually noticed something else I think is much more significant than being left out.
In addition to not being invited to pray over Frank and send him out with the cool kids club, not a one of them approached me to even say ‘HI’, with the exception of John. But it wasn’t just that. All of these pastors, worship leaders, etc, shook each other’s hands, patted each other on the back and conversed with each other, but not a one of them associated with any of the several homeless people that were there. And, none of the homeless people approached any of them either. On the flip side of that, I was approached by and had conversations with several of the homeless in attendance. At one point, me, Frank, and about four homeless people were standing around talking and I pointed out to Frank what I was observing among the pastors in the room. I told him, “I’m going to really miss you, bro. You and I have a much different perspective on serving the less fortunate in the community. I’m really concerned about who they will get to replace you.” He told me, “I’ve been concerned about that as well. We’ve been doing this for over six years and we are on the same page. I’m not sure you’re going to be able to continue doing this with just anyone.”
What I came to realize is that I don’t fit in AT ALL with the cool kid’s table and they obviously don’t even want me there among them. However, I fit in fine among the disenfranchised and marginalized whom I feel called to serve. All in all, I think I’m alright with that. After all, they are the reason I go down to the center and do what I do anyway. My heart is to serve and disciple the less fortunate in my community, not to seek recognition and accolades from pastors and church leaders in the area. Now, with Frank leaving, I’m just hoping someone doesn’t come along and screw that all up.”
This was Kevin. One of the few ‘prophetic voices’ I respected and a solid friend. When I say ‘prophetic,’ I don’t mean he ran around and got folks riled up with talk of Blood Moons or such nonsense, no. Kevin spoke it as he saw it and ‘called things out’ with a Barnabas-like attitude of consolation (Acts 4:36). Best part, he was always in the mix actually doing the stuff of discipleship even when the mix didn’t want him there.
The scenario played out above is nothing new. I am sure you have seen it, or likely participated in this sort polite insidious excommunication. I have been guilty of it and have also been on the receiving end. When I initially read this, my heart was broken for Kevin. But, I love the way he repackaged it and wrapped it in hope. That’s what he did all the time. In the face of cancer, with pain, in his relationships with others, and even with me. His quiet persistent faith was evident all the time. The dude did discipleship artfully.
In my years of what I would call ‘Intense Discipleship,’ I too have been rejected, ignored, outcast, and accused of teaching wrong doctrine. My methods have been questioned, and I’ve been called ‘rogue.’ Things is, Kevin and I and another Friend (Gibby) have been chatting via WhatsApp every day for almost two years. We’ve been accountable to each other, we’ve confessed to one another, and we’ve encouraged each other through some very difficult situations.
When I think about how those who are actually Making Disciples are treated by the non-discipling purveyors of Discipleship, it stings a bit. When I think about Kevin’s potential and how that potential might have been limited by guilty pretenders of discipleship, I get angry, sad, and want to strike back.
Kevin wouldn’t want it that way though. He’d cleverly crack a few jokes with a prophetic edge to them, and then grace his way towards more Christlike options.
If you’re one of the ‘pastors’ mentioned above, shame on you. If you’re one of the homeless, then remember Kevin’s words and the actions he backed them up with.
And Kevin… You are now at the coolest table ever. Peace Bro!