Delivered by Rev’d Akua B Ofori-Boateng at Accra Ridge Church in support of raising funds for the Accra Ridge Church Christian Services Group
May I speak to you in the name of God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently… Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
In 1958 the leader of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Philadelphia was a Young Anglican priest called Rev. Dudley. One day he got his hand caught in a machine, which was used, for shelling corn and within a week of the accident the wound became septic and he lost his life.
It was very apparent he was going to die and so he was asked by his friends to share his last thoughts with the young men of the YMCA. He simple said, “Tell them, ‘Let us all stand up for Jesus.’”
On hearing this message, his friend Rev George Duffield, composed a hymn, which went like this;
Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross; Lift high His royal banner, it must not suffer loss. From victory unto victory His army shall He lead, Till every foe is vanquished, and Christ is Lord indeed.
When we hear hymns like this we naturally and correctly think about evangelism.
We recognize that as the church militant, we have a duty fight for our faith and win souls for Christ. But in as much as all of us recognize that evangelism is the call and duty for each of us…we shy away from it…because over time evangelism has been diminished to Bible bashing.
The evangelist is now that stranger who stops you and after forcing a pamphlet into your hands starts querying you about whether you’ve given your life to Christ and whether you’re born again. And regardless of the answer you give the Bible bashing begins…and if the encounter doesn’t deteriorate into a fight, we often walk away feeling defeated and diminished in the presence of God.
Evangelism has been reduced to standing on a street corner, or riding on a trotro with a megaphone yelling at passers by & passengers whose only crime is that they are trying to get to the place where they earn their daily bread.
The evangelist is now that woman who every morning at 4:30AM, stops at my gate and reprimands my neighbours and me for not recognizing that our time to give our lives to Christ is limited and therefore we must act now. I’m often tempted to go downstairs and tell her, “Madam, I’m actually trying to write a sermon here” 🙂
Evangelism has become irritating…and the evangelist has become a nuisance! And this is why we shy away from it.
But if we go back and look at Christ, and how He evangelized…we will see that it was never anything He said that got people to follow Him…it was never through bashing anybody, it was never through accusation…
It was through what he did…it was through the compassion and love He showed those who were in need…it was His ability to meet their most immediate need that made them follow Him.
For example…in John 8:1-11, when He came across the woman caught in adultery He didn’t accuse her of anything. He first of all took her out of her immediate danger…away from the men waiting to stone her. He saved her life!
It was after that, that He said to her, “I don’t condemn you either…but you need to change you lifestyle.”
Today, the equivalent of that woman is a young man called Prince Adu. Prince was brought to Accra by a woman who he says is his aunty…the lady brought him to be a houseboy to someone he describes as “a big woman.” At the time he was just 14. After two years the “big woman” died and he suddenly found himself homeless.
With no family in Accra, his family became the street kids who clean windscreens at traffic lights. To numb the pain of his situation his new friends introduced him to drugs…first weed…then tramadol, cocaine, meth, heroin…you name it.
Quickly he became addicted…and now had a habit that cost him roughly GHS90 a day. With no job to sustain this habit he turned to robbery…one day he was caught and that is how come he is locked up in the Borstal Institute in Roman Ridge.
For him, like the woman caught in adultery, the only Jesus in his life is a group like the Ridge Church Christian Services Group.
Prince this stage in his life doesn’t need to be reminded of the poor choices he has made…He doesn’t need at to be guilt tripped into giving his life to Christ.
What he needs is a place to stay when he comes out of the Borstal Institute. What he needs is protection from the streets that got him into that situation in the first place…the streets that he will go back to as soon as he is released because there is nowhere else for him to go.
What he needs is a place to sleep…because the alleyway beside Marina mall where he slept before is not a place for any human being to sleep.
What he needs is to go back to school…so that he can have some hope of getting a real job to prevent him from prowling the streets of our neighborhoods at night looking for which one of us to rob.
This is where you and I come in as evangelists…to provide the resources that will allow the Ridge Church Christian Services Group to help Prince.
I know we don’t all have the time to go to the Borstal institute to find and assist guys like Prince, but each of us through our various contributions be it money, or clothes, or medication, or talents can be Christ to Prince. Like Christ did for that woman we too can meet Prince’s immediate needs and save his life.
In the gospel according to Matthew in chapter 20:30-34 we hear the compelling story of blind Bartimaeus, who was sitting by the roadside, when he heard that Jesus was passing by. Immediately he began to cry out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Matthew says, Jesus stopped and asked him. “What do you want me to do for you?” and he said, “Lord, I want my sight.” According toMatthew, Jesus had compassion on Bartimaeus and touched his eyes.
Today Bartimaeus is a guy called Godfred Lartey.
Godfred was a brilliant student at Accra New Town Experimental School. He didn’t come from money, but his was a stable home. Until he turned 15 and his mother walked out on him, his father and his two younger siblings.
As a woodcarver, Godfred’s father could only provide so much and so after JSS, he dropped out of school.
He was also a talented footballer in school and tried to use football as his way up and out. But because he didn’t know any ‘big person’ that also fell through and he found himself unemployed and indeed unemployable.
In his search to find a way to feed and take care of himself, Godfred fell into bad company. The funny thing about bad company is that it is a very loving place to be.
The term he used was “Ghetto love.” He said “in the Ghetto, you feel some kind of love…everything is shared… food, shelter and…drugs.”
The drugs are also a good way of making money…so he started selling drugs. And the more addictive the drug, the better the money. With the money he earned he bought more drugs…some he used himself and the rest he sold.
One day there was a police raid in his Ghetto in Osu and he was sentenced to 2 years in Nsawam.
He is out now and back on the streets…walking around barefooted in Labone…in a desperate situation.
Now although Godfred may be too spiritually blind to know it himself…we as spiritually conscious Christians should recognize that his very situation is a cry for help…like Bartimaeus he is crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
This is where like Jesus we should stop and ask Godfred, “What do you want me to do for you?”
This is not the time for anyone to hand Godfred a pamphlet and ask him if he has given his life to Christ…this is the time when we must have compassion on Godfred and touch him through the an arm of a the church like the Ridge Church Christian Services Group.
And through that touch we can heal him… we can heal his hunger, we can heal his addiction, we can heal his homelessness.
There are so many guys like Godfred out there and although we each may not be able to physically go to them, we can touch them by sponsoring programs like the Scholarship Program For The Brilliant But Needy which last year put 6 kids through 1 year of university for just GHS39K, that’s $7000. (I know people who can spend that kind of on clothes…in just one shop)
We can touch guys like Godfred by donating money, medication, clothes, food and time to places like the Rhema Rehabilitation center, which like Christ dedicates itself to these guys…over ther they listens to their needs, they feed them, clothe them, and shows them the care and attention they deserve.
St Matthew said that when Christ stopped and touched Bartimaeus, he received his sight and followed Jesus.
Godfred is still out there today in Labone because despite his cries for help…none of us has been Christ enough to touch him and heal him…but if we did…like blind Bartemeus he would follow us…no pamphlet…no bible bashing…he would follow us simply because we have met his needs.
When Jesus performed His first miracle of changing water into wine John noted in John 2:11, that after Jesus had performed this miracle, “…his disciples BELIEVED in him.” On the other hand, in Luke 5, when Jesus found some fishermen who had been trying all night with no luck to catch some fish…He offered them a solution by saying,“Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Although they complained, they took His advice and they caught so much fish that they had to call in another boat to help them out. Luke noted in verse 11 that after this experience, “ They pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and FOLLOWED him.” One of these men was Simon Peter the one upon whom Christ built His church.
The point I’m making here is that when Jesus performed a miracle…when he showed them signs and wonders like he did at the wedding in Cana…they believed in Him but they did not follow Him. It was only when he met their needs…gave them a full catch of fish that they followed Him.
We also will never be able to turn any of these young men and women from their destructive lifestyles simply by talking to them. They may indeed believe in their hearts, but to leave everything behind…to leave that lifestyle behind and follow us…they will not do until we meet their needs.
Until we each does our part to provide shelter, food, clothing, love and education for guys like Prince, and Godfred, and Francis, and Julius and all the guys I spoke to, to put this sermon together, they will continue to seek out that “ghetto love” the love that soothes their pain with the high of drugs.
When Paul says to us in Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
The law of Christ he is talking about is the one in John 13:34-35, which says we must love one another as Christ has loved us.
As soldiers of the cross we cannot allow “Ghetto love” to overshadow “Christ’s love”
So when Rev Dudley says, ‘Let us all stand up for Jesus” It is a message to each of us to…
…Stand up stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross; Lift high His royal banner, it must not suffer loss. From victory unto victory His army shall He lead, Till every foe is vanquished, and Christ is Lord indeed.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen