I often get the opportunity to visit and preach in a variety of Churches and I have found something quite interesting. Many times the Pastor will try to encourage the congregations to reach out with the Gospel to their neighbors and family and bring them to Church. The next week they have the same empty seats and basically the same people. Why is this? The answer is simple if the people in the church wanted them there they would already be there.
The reality is God has done his part we have to do ours. There is just no escaping it. (Romans 10:17)
In the Book of Jonah in the Old Testament we find a prophet in Israel named Jonah who was called by God to warn his country’s enemies the Assyrians in their capital city of Nineveh of impending judgment of God because of their murderous sin. Jonah flees from God in the opposite direction because he knows in his heart that God would forgive his nation’s enemies when they repented. In short he runs away because he hates these people and rejects God’s will for his life in favor of his own. In doing so he loses his home, his ministry, his country and nearly his life when found sleeping in the bottom of a cargo ship during a horrific storm when he should have been praying and is thrown overboard by desperate pagan sailors who fear his God more than he does. There is a high price to be paid for rejecting God’s will for our lives. I think all of us are familiar with the fact that God, in his mercy, sent a huge fish to swallow Jonah in the midst of the sea and there in the stomach of the fish he prays then God commands the fish to spit him up on to dry land. From there, to no ones surprise, Jonah cooperates with God and goes to Nineveh.
After he comes to Nineveh he preaches an eight word sermon to the people there, “Forty more days and Nineveh shall be destroyed.” The whole City including the King believed and repented after hearing his preaching and God saw what they did and withheld his judgment against them. Jonah on the other hand sat angry outside Nineveh when the people inside the city undoubtedly rejoiced over their new found salvation. He became upset when a plant that shaded his head had died. What’s this got to do with kids in the inner-city kids you may ask? A lot as we will see when we pick up the narrative between himself and God at the end of the book Jonah 4:9-11, “But God said to Jonah, “Do you think it is right for you to be angry just because this plant died?” Jonah answered, “Yes, it is right for me to be angry enough to die!” And the Lord said, “You did nothing for that plant, surely I can feel sorry for a big city like Nineveh. There are more than 120,000 people there who did not know they are doing wrong.”
Now here the book abruptly ends. This is what I believe it means and what God is saying to us today. Notice God said 120,000 people that are ignorant of their disobedience. There were well over one million people in Nineveh at that time. God is not talking about 120,000 adults he is talking about 120,000 children. He is telling Jonah that he is more interested in his personal comforts and own biases than the lives of innocent kids. In other words he is being rebuked by God for his lack of compassion for the lost particularly the children. Sadly, he simply doesn’t care what happens to them. He only cares about what happens to him when he goes home and tells his fellow Israelites that the enemy has been saved.
Look others and I’ve been in this ministry for many years. We just came here believing God wanted to use us to make a difference in the lives of some kids And I say this with all due respect for every ministry in town that I am sure is making a difference in their communities. But I can count on one hand over the years the number of Christians I have seen ministering to the kids of our inner-city. Usually, I see Mormons and Nation of Islam but few born again believers. The laborers are few and far between. Like many inner-city missions we struggle month to month to make ends meet financially. We keep growing with one person doing the work of three. Every time it looks like the end for us we seem to find a new beginning. We truly are walking in the miracle provisioning of God and to Him be all the Glory but much more is still needed.
My heart is troubled though, for a Church that has lost it’s compassion for the poor, the desperate and the lost. I believe their cries are being drowned out by the pleasures of this life the comfortable seats in the sanctuary or the latest professional sports game. I believe the ancient Roman emperor Nero and enemy of the Church was unfortunately right when he said, “Let’s give the people bread and circuses so they won’t care who makes the laws.” Or like Jonah when the wind and waves are destroying the boat above, and all the time him sleeping below while the lives of the unredeemed sailors on deck hang in the balance between heaven and hell. The question is, does anyone really care? What do we want to communicate to these kids and the lost of our inner-city? I’m sure Jonah had good reasons for not caring. I think everyone does, but these reasons are not valid to God who spared not His own Son to redeem us. Not everyone is called to the mission field but we are all called to support it. It’s our responsibility; it’s our time to care for the lost of our community. These kids need to know Jesus loves them. Let’s work together to this end to please our Heavenly Father who called us by grace into His marvelous light.