I am Chaplain at a Trauma Hospital in one of America’s most violent cities, Camden, NJ. I have to take family members to identify dead young men riddled with bullet holes. I am also a Pastor of a local Church in Camden. I have lost count of the young Black and Hispanic Males (and a few females) That have died from Gun Violence here in Camden. When I drive through the city I see so many young minority men wandering aimlessly down the street, some making drug deals and many using drugs. I also see a LARGE influx of WHITE people BUYING drugs primarily HEROIN. My church has an alley next to it and there are homeless heroin addicts sleeping and shooting up there. One white lady died in that alley last month from an overdose. What is the answer to these horrible situations? What can Churches do to help this devastation in this City on the Waterfront? It isn’t just a BLACK or HISPANIC problem it is EVERYBODY’S PROBLEM.
First of all, we need to confess our sins to our Lord and repent from them. We need to recognize our sinfulness of apathy, pride, gossip, and any idols of ‘doctrinal purity’ that are so divisive. We need to forsake them, and drop to our knees, pray, confess, forgive, and go on. We need to recognize that we must be united to be strong. But we must do this without compromising the gospel of truth (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Rom. 5:1). The enemy wants us fragmented, not God. Before God can heal the City of Camden the Christian Community MUST repent and cry out to God. Pastors have to stop being HIRELINGS and GIVE rather than beg and PIMP God’s people.
Second, we need to recognize the Great Commission as something more than a recommendation from Jesus. It is not an option. It is a command. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations . . . ” (Matt. 28:19). Are we being fishers of men or keepers of the aquarium? Are we being obedient or comfortable? We must be AGGRESSIVE in Evangelism, street corner preaching, handing out tracts, Bibles, and food to the homeless. “Having Church” and Raising offerings is NOT making our city better, the Church has to TAKE IT TO THE STREETS.
Third, we need to work together as much as possible to bring the gospel of truth to the lost. This will require sacrifice, prayer, humility, and risk. We cannot easily undo the great fragmentation of the body of Christ, but we can cross the denominational boundaries by focusing on that which unites us in the faith: Jesus is God in flesh (Trinity), salvation by grace through faith alone, the atonement, and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ shed blood. We need to look at the essentials and let the gospel of God change the hearts of people. Protestants and Catholics must unite and work together realizing that Jesus Christ is NOT divided nor should WE BE! We also have to support Law Enforcement and stand up to the evil. Stop this stupid “No Snitch” rule and let’s make sure the killers and dealers of death go to JAIL.
Fourth, we need to use whatever gifts the Lord has given us for the increase of His kingdom. Whether it is praying for the lost and for the workers in Christ, or helping support financially, teaching the body, doing works of administration, or whatever gift you have, use it for the glory of God. Give it to Him and ask Him to bless you by letting you use your gifts and then do it! And don’t be afraid to fail.
Rev. Dr. Mark H. Stevens
Chaplain and Pastor of Mt Calvary COGIC, Camden NJ