Luke 14:23:"And the lord said unto the servant, go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled."
In this parable, Jesus' point was that we are not to sit back and expect folks to come to us; we are to go to them and bring them in. And when he gave this parable, at one point within it he gave a location. He told us to go out "into the highways and hedges."
Without belaboring you with a deep and technical definition, let me just tell you that the highways and hedges were the exact opposite of gated communities, mansions and million-dollar subdivisions.
Lest anyone be offended, please understand that Jesus did not and does not despise people of wealth, nor do we. Many of his followers were, in fact, quite wealthy, among them such notable names as Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. But the heart of God has always seemed to be the most affected by those who realize how much they need him on a daily basis.
For many years, our church has taken buses out into the surrounding areas to bring little boys and girls to church. For most of those years, even with wonderful people giving great efforts, it has been like trying to wade through waist-deep, freshly poured concrete. But often, years of labor will suddenly be rewarded in the most unexpected of ways.
We recently had a wonderful new family come to our congregation, and they were in the habit of running buses and bringing kids to church. Within a month of them being here, 20 or more children were coming with them. On a recent Wednesday night I drove our large church bus for them as they picked up all the children, then after church I drove for them as they took them all back home. These are some of the most amazing and lovable kids you could ever meet.
We did not have the privilege of stopping at any mansions -- we certainly would have if allowed to -- but in some cases we did go down dirt roads so deep and rutted that at times I wondered if our bus would even make it out.
As we got to a particular home to let a few children off, an absolutely precious young girl tugged on my sleeve, looked up at me with puppy dog eyes and said, "Preacher man, will you pick me up for church tomorrow?"
Sunday could not get here soon enough for me.
Jesus said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." Little children cannot give great sums of money or build buildings or do some other great task for a church. But they are utterly precious to Jesus, and they should be just as precious to every church and every pastor and every church member.
When it comes time to stand before the Lord and give an account of ourselves, I suspect that the Master will be far less impressed with granite countertops and gold-plated fixtures than he is by a bus full of rowdy children that we brought to his feet.
"Preacher man, will you pick me up for church tomorrow?" Sunday's coming...
Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, N.C., and the author of several books, which are available at www.wordofhismouth.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.