The life Jesus lived brought Him many accusations. One of them is found in
Matthew 11:19: . . . the Son of Man came . . . and they say, Look . . . a
friend of tax collectors and sinners. The people He ministered to were
considered to be living on the mean streets of His day.
PHOTO BY LAURA SIKES
I was called to minister on the mean streets too: in the San Francisco Bay
and Los Angeles areas. Later, I ministered in Vancouver, British Columbia. All
were filled with the most needy peopleboth physically and spiritually. Our
church touched the lives of many people. We ministered to homosexuals,
transvestites, prostitutes, people living on skid row, prisoners (including
many at San Quentin) and residents of the native Indian reserves in Canada.
They were all people for whom Christ died and whom God loved. They needed a
friend and a home where they would be loved, cared for and reconciled to God.
We became their friends, and our church became their home. Most were loved into
the Kingdom of God. But as a pastor, I had to teach my congregation to reach
out and love the untouchables of society. At first they were hesitant, mostly
because they had never done this before and were afraid of the unknown. But
many were themselves victims of the mean streets in their youth and knew what
it was like. They just needed encouragement, some training and Christian
partners to go with them.
We would take groups regularly to skid row in downtown San Francisco, where
we found many people needing to be loved to Jesus. We sat on curbs and shared
Christs love with alcoholics. Many came to experience a life-transforming and
life-saving encounter with Christ. What a joy came over all of us. My church
members always wanted to go back. I prepared our church to reach out to a newly
formed gang who actually called themselves the Untouchables. When this gang
came to church out of the blue one Sunday evening, we were ready. Over a period
of weeks, 23 of the 25 gang members trusted Christ as their Lord. Many lives
and homes were changed.
I led to the Lord a young teenage boy who recently had killed another
teenager. I prepared our church to be ready to counsel teenagers who would be
attending the funeral of their slain friend. Eleven teenagers came forward at a
planned invitation and put their faith in Christ, with parents and police
watching. These moments transformed our church family into genuine friends of
To some the urban areas seem like mean streets. They really are not! They
are places where real people, with real needs live. To many, this is all they
have ever known. They need a Jesus-person to come to them, touch them and tell
them of the Love of the Father and how to personally come to know Him. They
need someone to intentionally love them like Jesus did in His day. One church I
pastored gained the reputation of being filled with riff-raff. We felt highly
honored by the designation and reputation!
One particular challenge was with the native Indian peoplea very gentle,
kind and loving people. It was difficult to help people see beyond stereotypes.
Often many people see only the alcoholic man staggering down the street or
lying in a gutter. They hear only of brokenness in family life, unemployment,
suicides and death on the Indian reserves. But too many Christians never go
there where these people are. Jesus did not sit in a church pew waiting. He
went to where the needs were. Transformed people told their friends, and crowds
gathered around this healer of hearts and lives and were themselves changed. It
is those on the mean streets who, when truly loved, are the easiest to reach
with the gospel. They know their need and quickly recognize Gods provision for
In such inner-cities there is too often much death. I experienced this in my
first church in the San Francisco area and conducted more than 300 funerals in
five years. Each funeral became an opportunity for our church to minister to
real people in real need of Gods love.
Dont neglect the people on the mean streets. They will respond to Gods love
through you and your church, and great glory will come to our Lord Who died for
The author of Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby is president of
Henry Blackaby Ministries. Visit www.henryblackaby.com for more information. Bible
references are from The New King James Version.
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