The Many Faces of Lostness

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So I’m sitting in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for a five plus hour layover.  I’m on my way home after an interesting and strangely wonderful trip to Seattle.  My first trip to this Pacific Northwest destination was with our Cross Church School of Ministry men who are spending the year with me preparing for ministry.

Our mission was to assist two brand-new church plants.  Essential Church is pastored by Warren Mainard and launched in March.  The Landing Church is pastored by Andy Brown and launched in January.  I took half of our group and spent the week ministering with Andy and the great folks of The Landing Church.

When most people think of Seattle and Church they think perhaps of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill or maybe Judah Smith and The City Church.  Both are great men and their churches draw thousands.  But even with their mega-success by churchianty standards, Seattle still remains 96% lost.  A huge number for a huge metro area of 4.5 million people.  So, yes, we need more churches and more God-called church planters like Warren and Andy.

Pastor Andy introduced me to the many faces of lostness in the city of Seattle. 

I met Kim, an elementary school teacher in Kenmore who is an atheist.  At least that is her claim.  Andy met her when he first moved to Seattle because she was his son’s teacher.  She came and ate dinner with our group the first night we arrived.  She shared with us her story.  Closed off to all things God.  Not interested.  Thank you very much.  But then she was surprised at a Christian pastor and his wife who showed genuine interest in her life.  Who prayed for the healing of her ill mother (who “miraculously” recovered, according to the doctors).   And so now Andy is drinking coffee with Kim each week in the afternoons and talking about God.  She’s interested and wants to know more.

I also spent a whole day pulling weeds and doing landscaping at the local elementary school where Andy’s church is closely located.  This very secular environment that is hostile to Christianity has opened its doors to Andy’s church because he doesn’t want anything from them.  He just wants to do stuff for them.  Stuff like feed the teachers lunch, and provide in-class helpers for teachers, and yes, landscaping.  For whatever reason the school district has no money for the upkeep of the grounds other than basic mowing.  So all the beds and playgrounds and green areas are overgrown with weeds.  Well, they were.  Now, because of The Landing Church, this school looks beautiful.  So what does this have to do with telling people about Jesus?  Yeh, I thought that too.  Until I lost count of the number of teachers and parents and administrators that stopped us to say things like, “Thank you so much for caring.  It really looks SO much better.”  Think about it, nobody wants to go to work and spend 8-10 hours of their life at a place that looks like a jungle.  And all the time we were there, Andy’s big blue 15 passenger van with The Landing Church logo on it sat in the parking lot like a massive billboard advertising the presence of the church.

“You’ve got to earn the right to be heard,” Andy says. 

And he has.

The faces of lost people.

People hostile to the gospel have begun to come to Andy and discuss life and religion and church.

All because they know he cares.

I spent another day in downtown Seattle handing out socks to homeless people.  Yeh, socks.  I found out from Andy that the greatest commodity among homeless people is socks.  Andy goes down to hand out socks to the homeless a couple of times a month at least.  I was amazed at how many people in the downtown area know Andy.  Like Joe Francis, the spray paint artist who sets up shop off of Alaskan Way and dazzles a crowd with his unbelievable talent.  This lost man is personal friends with Andy.  Andy took him to lunch once and Joe responded by giving Andy two paintings.  One he created especially for Andy of Jesus on the cross.  I saw it in Andy’s office and it is truly amazing.  That same day I met Joe while we were downtown. In fact, as we were getting out of the church’s van, we heard someone yell, “Pastor Andy!”  Then this guy comes over and gives Andy a big hug.  It was Joe.  Arriving just a few spots from us ready to set up his “studio” for the day.  Andy has invited Joe, this man who is lost, to come to his church at some point and paint pictures of creation and Jesus while Andy preaches.  And Joe has said, “Yes.”

I met David, who was homeless when Andy met him and is now in his own apartment and coming to Andy’s church with his girlfriend Emily.

David took us to Pioneer Square where the homeless hang out in large numbers and the smell of pot is pervasive. 

It took us about 30 minutes to hand out 70 pair of socks and just talk to people.  People like David (a different David) who is from St. Louis who is trying to reconnect with family.  Or Scott, who’s been clean for a year, but has a warrant out for his arrest in Florida, so he’s in Seattle (about as far from Florida as you can get) trying to start over.  All of these and more are the faces of lostness.  They are real people with names and stories and hopes and dreams.   Andy says the only difference between him and them is that they’ve made just a few more mistakes in life than him… or just got caught.  He’s right, I think.

So my biggest take away from my trip to Seattle and The Landing Church is this…lost people aren’t just in Seattle.  They are also in Chicago, where I am sitting right now at Gate F1B, and they are in Northwest Arkansas.  Lost teachers in the local schools, lost homeless people, lost checkers at Walmart – you get the idea.

We all are surrounded by the faces of lostness…if we would only take the time to look.

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