What Kind of Church Do You Go To?

I had the privilege of hearing this story first hand. It is a story that inspires me to get out of my comfort zone and to love more boldly.

It’s a story Tony Campolo tells about a trip he and his wife took to Hawaii several years ago. Because of the time change, he couldn’t get to sleep, so he decided to take a walk down the streets of Honolulu during the middle of the night.

At about 3am, he walked into a little coffee shop to get a coffee and doughnut, and as he was sitting in this empty shop, four prostitutes came walking in, talking loudly, and ordering something to eat after a night of prostituting.

They seemed to know the guy working behind the counter, and they talked to him and to each other, and as they talked, they were teasing one of the prostitutes named Agnes.

Apparently her birthday was the next day and they were making jokes about her age, and wondering how long she could keep prostituting.

Tony was sitting close and listening and even though Agnes was laughing on the outside, he could tell by her voice and her tired face that the teasing hurt and that there was an emptiness in her soul.

They eventually got up and left, and Tony got an idea.

He went to the gentlemen working behind the counter and asked if these ladies came in here every night about this time. The man said that they usually came in around 3am after turning tricks.

So Tony asks the man, “Would you help me throw a birthday party for Agnes the next morning? My wife and I will bring the decorations and the cake, if you can supply the dishes and silverware.”

The man looked stunned but said he would go along with it, since there wasn’t anything else to do at 3am in the morning. So Tony said, “It’s a plan. See you here tomorrow, same time.”

Early the next morning, Tony and his wife set up the decorations and brought a cake that said, “Happy Birthday Agnes!” and they waited impatiently.

At 3am sharp the door opens and in comes the ladies and Tony and his wife yell out, “Surprise!” and sing happy birthday to Agnes.

Agnes was stunned. She didn’t know what to say. She began to cry. Then she laugh.

Before they could cut the cake, Agnes asked if she could take the cake home and show her children. She had never been given a birthday cake before. Tony said, “Of course you can take it home.”

Agnes grabbed the cake and left the diner.

So here was Tony and his wife, sitting around with three prostitutes they did not know and the guy behind counter who seemed irritated by it all, and Tony didn’t know what to do.

And then it hit him. He announced to everyone in the room, “Let’s pray for Agnes.”

So Tony, his wife, three prostitutes and the guy behind the counter formed a little circle and Tony prayed that Agnes would have a great birthday and that she would experience God’s Grace and that she would understand how much God loved her.

When Tony said “Amen”, the guy behind the counter belted out, “I didn’t know this was some kind of religious gesture! If I would have known, I don’t think I would have gotten involved. What kind of church do you go to anyway?”

And Tony said the famous words that challenge my heart to this day.

He said, “I go to a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3am in the morning.”

The guy behind the counter then said, “No you don’t. Because if you did, I think I would go to that kind of church.”

I think more people would go to church if there was more love, practical action and greater compassion.

I pray that there will be a new epidemic of “Churches throwing birthday parties for prostitutes at 3am in the morning.”

The Opposite of Fear is Love

My son goes to school in Southern California and works for a grocery store chain.

He was working late one night when a man came running into the store, past my son, turned around, about twenty feet from him, and started shooting in his direction.

The man was actually shooting at a policeman who had run into the store, but the policeman was right behind my son, so the bullets were flying towards both of them.

My son lunged to the left to avoid the bullets, but the policeman lunged left also.

There was a Doritos display between the shooter and my son so as he was diving out of the way, shards of nacho cheese Doritos were flying everywhere. The sliding glass doors at the front of the store where shattering from the bullets also.

My son said everything moved in slow motion, but the noise was deafening.

Long story short, my son(who we call superman now) was actually faster than the speeding bullets and as he avoided the bullets, the cop began to shoot back and eventually shot the man.

My son was shaken up a little, and had to spend some time getting nacho cheese chips out of his hair, but overall was fine, but he had to sit in the police station all night giving reports about what he saw.

While he was at the station, he met an interesting couple.

This couple was from the state of Washington and the man was a professor of accounting at Washington State. They were in Southern California because the university my son goes to was interested in hiring him.

The man had always wanted to teach at a Christian college, but his wife was nervous about moving to California because it seemed like a dangerous, wild kind of place.

The University said, “Why don’t you come down and just check out the place.” So they did.
They landed at the airport and while driving to check into their hotel, they decided to stop by a local grocery store to pick up some snacks.

When they drove in front of the store, bullets started hitting the side of their rental car. Yes, the same bullets my son was avoiding inside.

This couple had been in California for 2 hours and their worst fears were coming true. They had become a part of a Hollywood movie.

The couple was uninjured, but they had to go to the police station, and this is where they met my son. When they told him the story, my son was thinking, “Well, this is the last time they will ever come to California.”

After giving reports to what they saw, everyone left the police station going their separate ways.

About three months later, my son was working a late shift at the grocery store and he turned around and there was this lady from the state of Washington.

Bonded by flying bullets my son ran and gave her a big hug and asked her what she was doing there and she said that they had decided to take the job and move to California.

She told my son, “We were not going to let some random act of violence keep us from doing what God was wanting us to do. We were not going to let fear have the last word!”

I love that couple!

Fear takes away the gift of today, and robs us of God’s dreams for us for tomorrow.
Fear stops us from doing great things.
Fear stops us from seeing miracles.

The Apostle Paul faced all kinds of life threatening situations yet said, “The Lord has not given us a spirit of fear, but he has given us a spirit of power, love and a sound mind.”

The fact is you can’t remove all the risks out of life.

Life is composed of a series of risks, being born, leaving the house, driving, making friends, getting married, having kids(that is a real scary one), careers, health, eating sushi, being a Sacramento Kings fan, going to the broken places of this world.

Why has God put us in this kind of world?
Because He wants His love to triumph over our fears.
He wants us to experience His miracles.
He wants His miracles to bring Him glory.

The children of Israel were getting ready to pass through the Red Sea and experience a miracle, but they responded in fear when Pharoah and his army had them trapped.

Fear makes us sarcastic, “Moses, did you bring us out in the desert to die?”
Fear keeps us in unhealthy situations, “Moses, let us go back and keep serving the Egyptians.”
Fear makes us very short-sighted, “Moses, it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than die in the desert.”

At Disneyland there is a ride called Space Mountain.

When you are standing in line there are warning signs that tell you why you shouldn’t ride this ride. “If you are pregnant or you get dizzy or you get bloody noses or if you have a bad heart or back, if you have bad breath, bad fashion, hemorrhoids, back hair, a bad comb-over, a mullet, or a fanny pack you should not ride this ride.”

The list disqualifies most Americans.

While you’re waiting, there are about five or six turnouts, where you can chicken out and get out of line. But there is a point, when they strap you into that little bobsled, where there’s only one way out. You’re going to have to take the ride.

That is what I call the moment of truth.

That is where the children of Israel were at the Red Sea.

And they had an opportunity to believe, to have faith, but instead, they respond in fear.
They have just spent four hundred years in slavery.
They have been beaten, mistreated, abused, killed, starved, and overworked for four hundred years and now they’re saying, “Let’s go back.”

God will constantly put us in scary situations where it will be tempting to play it safe rather than go forward into uncertain territory so that He can do a miracle.

How do we overcome our fears?

Psalm 56:3 says, “When I am afraid, I will put my confidence in God… Yes, I will trust the promises of God.”

We often think that the opposite of fear is courage. But the opposite of fear is love.

When we experience and receive and begin to live in God’s love, we become less fearful people. The apostle John said it like this, “There is no fear in love. Instead, perfect love drives fear away. Fear has to do with being punished. The one who fears does not have perfect love.” 1 John 4:18

How do we overcome our fears?

We must trust the promises of God (Psalm 56:3) and we must allow His love to drive out all of our fears.

My son returned to work the next day. His manager was shocked. “Why are you here? I thought you would be afraid to come back. I thought you would need some time off”.

Well, let me speak for my son. I believe that he trusts that his life is in God’s hands and that love, not fear will have the last word.