Angel grew up in the home of a single parent. He’s a pretty typical Latino kid from South Florida. One day, when he was in his mid-teens, a pretty girl invited him to Wednesday night “youth group” at New Testament Baptist Church. In his words, I came to… “You know, get close to her, get a little action, try to get her to make out with me…”. Instead, he heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached and before he went home – he didn’t make a decision, he experienced a conversion. The Lord changed him inside out and he was never the same again.
This is a kid whose only religious experience was of Catholicism and we all know what that largely means to a Latino kid. But when Angel trusted Christ, he caught fire for Jesus Christ. Before long, he figured out a way to attend Dade Christian School which he did his last few years of High School. When he graduated, he headed to Moody Bible Institute to get prepared to become a youth pastor for a couple of years and he’s now back home in his 3rd year of study locally and he works with a church plant in Dade County.
As we conversed over black beans and rice and Cuban sandwiches in a new Latin American restaurant a few blocks from our school, we covered the usual topics a couple of guys are prone to cover…. Schooling, future plans, his dating life, sports. In the middle of this superficial conversation, he leans forward and drops his voice a little and with an intense urgency he said this:
“Dr. B – See that lady sitting over near the door dressed in all white? She’s a Santeria priestess. Look over to your left behind you a bit. See those two guys talking? They are closing a business deal. Right behind you is a guy that’s been hitting on the waitress since we walked in the door. He’s trying to get her to go home with him. Over at the lunch bar? See that old guy? He’s all alone in the world. Dr. B — look all around us. This community is FILLED with people who are dying and going straight to hell and no one gives a crap about it!”
I fully realize that someone is going to post a comment or send me an email chastising me for using a word that I got in trouble for using when I was growing up. But, a) I wanted you to hear the raw heart of this inspiring young man who cares about souls and b) if you are worried more about the fact that I just quoted someone who said “crap” than you are about the fact that our communities are filled with people who are dying and going straight to hell – then go right ahead and write your note.
I’ve got to tell you – it was like the Holy Spirit jumped on those words and has branded them on my heart. Because after 25 years of being in ministry – I will confess to you that if actions speak louder than words – I’m afraid I’ve lost the passion for the mission of the Gospel that called me into Christian education and church ministry in the first place.
That mission was not about teaching kids how to conjugate verbs and diagram sentences. It was not about arranging class schedules and meeting with the parents of prospective students. It wasn’t spending hours in calendaring meetings and managing yet another “outreach program”. It wasn’t about preaching to another group of bored and listless preachers at some fellowship meeting. It was not about sitting in budget meetings and board meetings until I was in danger of slipping into a coma. It was about seeing the lives, the futures, the souls of young men and young women transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ as they repented of their sins and abandoned any notion that they could save themselves and trusted the Son of God with all their hearts for salvation. That’s why I went into the ministry a quarter a century ago – Because I gave a “crap” about their souls.
So, I’m not quite sure why I’m sharing this today. It’s not simply a public confessional. I guess it’s my hope that maybe someone who reads this will get hit alongside the head like I did when I had lunch with Angel. Maybe it’s because I hope that when push comes to shove and we shake the foggy clouds of our own busyness away for a few minutes — maybe we’ll remember that we really DO care about the souls of those around us. And maybe, just maybe, that realization will make us reset our priorities in the week to come.