What Does “Homeless Church” Look Like?

I’ve invited more homeless people to church than I can count. On a few occasions, the person I invited showed up. Most often, however, the person gladly accepted the invitation and later apologized for not making it.

There were also a couple of times when the person showed up an hour and half late, as everyone was leaving, asking, “Is it over already?”

Most homeless people I talk to generally believe in God. They believe God hears their prayers and protects them. Many of these people believe in Jesus specifically – that he died for them, that he was raised from the dead, that he loves them.

If this is true, why aren’t these homeless people going to church every Sunday?

That might be a stupid question.

Because fleshed out, the question is this:

“Why don’t these people who hardly shower, don’t keep track of time, and barely sleep at night wake up on Sunday morning and walk (or hitchhike) to a worship service at a building filled with well-rested and fragrant strangers?”

The answer is not, “because they haven’t been invited.”

Last Wednesday, Doug wandered into our ministry center and was greeted by my friend Matt (one of the ministers at Nomad Church Collective).

Doug said to Matt, “I don’t really know why I’m here. I recently became homeless, and everyone I’ve talked to told me there are people here who care, people who will pray with me.”

Matt replied, “Brother, let’s pray.”

He placed his hand on Doug’s shoulder and Doug started weeping, sobbing through Matt’s prayer.

Afterward, he apologized for crying and told Matt, “When you touched me, I felt an overwhelming sense of God’s Spirit.”

Doug has been back to the ministry center a few times now. When we gave him a Bible, he sat quietly and read the entire Gospel of John.

And really, Doug’s story isn’t unique. We interact with several homeless and near-homeless people every day. We usually talk about Jesus and pray. We often read or reference scripture. Almost every encounter ends with someone praising God.

Jesus said his people are light in darkness.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.”  (Matthew 5:14-15, ESV)

Light travels.

It goes.

Imagine living in a house with no windows or light fixtures. Total darkness. Except one closet, under the stairs, where a candle sits on a table. As you walk through the house, stepping on jagged objects and stubbing your toe on table legs, you realize you need light. So, you go to the closet and stand there next to the candle and take a deep breath. Ah, that’s better. Then you venture back out into the darkness.

That would make no sense.

Church for the homeless looks like the message of Jesus being carried from person to person on a daily basis, bringing light into the dark corners of society.

Traveling.

Spreading.

I like it, and I’m glad I’ve been invited to attend.

The good news is, you’re invited too.

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