Normally, we’d find it self-indulgent to run a story about our new book, Food Court Druids, Cherohonkees, and other Creatures Unique to the Republic, but this article from a Presbyterian gazette in VA is bizarre and priceless:
Resolving to Reach Out in ’05
Asphalt Rangers. Have you every bumped into one? These are people who live in the city, but wear backpacking gear and hiking shoes every day. And how about Stretchibitionists? They are those peculiar gym patrons who never seem to actually work out; instead, they claim a visible spot to do a stretch routine with no apparent aim or reason.
If these descriptions ring a bell, you can thank Robert Lanham, author of the book Food Court Druids, Cherohonkees, and Other Creatures Unique to the Republic. He’s “the Margaret Mead of the North American weirdo,” according to writer Neal Pollack—able to identify dozens of species of humans who may not even know that they are part of a distinctive social group. (Hank Stuever, “Your Life: Highly Classified, By Robert Lanham,” The Washington Post, November 7, 2004, D1)
The mission of our church is to reach out to Asphalt Rangers and Stretchibitionists, as well as every other social group in our community. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus goes out into all the cities and villages, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, and curing every disease and every sickness (Matthew 9:35). He reaches out to the first-century versions of Asphalt Rangers and Stretchibitionists — members of every idiosyncratic social group that existed in all the cities and villages of Galilee. The point of this passage is that Jesus ventures beyond his own circle of family members and friends and reaches out — he embraces the great crowds of people who are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (v. 36). Although these crowds of Galileans may have been as odd and amusing as Stretchibitionists, Jesus doesn’t laugh at them. Instead, he has compassion for them.
Then Jesus commands his disciples to do the same. “The harvest is plentiful,” he says, “but the laborers are few” (v. 37). In other words, “Go on, get going. There are a lot of Asphalt Rangers we need to reach.” We can make a New Year’s resolution to reach out in 2005.
The place to begin is always to identify a hunger ‚Äî to figure out what is missing, what needs to be filled, what is aching for satisfaction. Then, and only then, our job is to take steps to satisfy that hunger with solid spiritual food.
So, how can we reach the Asphalt Rangers? These people who live in backpacking gear and hiking shoes have a hunger for opportunities that are adventurous, challenging, and results-oriented. We can offer overseas mission trips for Rangers who like to work with their hands, local mission projects for men and women who want to improve their communities, and intensive spiritual retreats for people who are willing to be challenged by the rigors of faithful living. Another trip to Honduras will be offered this year by the Midlife Men on a Mission, local mission projects are always being organized by the Mission Outreach Ministry, and the Great Banquet spiritual renewal weekend will return to FPC this spring and fall.
But what about Stretchibitionists? These idiosyncratic gym patrons might appear to be uninterested in religion, but in fact they have a spiritual need that the church is uniquely qualified to meet. As disciples of Christ, we can help them to put body and soul together. The Christian Education Ministry is sponsoring a program on faith and fitness in late January (see details on page 10), and participants in this program may decide to organize some exercise groups. The key to reaching Stretchibitionists is to create new programs that help them to put body and soul together. It’s a spiritual need that we can meet, and as we do so we’ll be acting as faithful laborers in Christ’s harvest.
Meeting people where they are is the key to being a faithful healer and harvester. By finding and meeting their needs, we’ll find ways to reach the many idiosyncratic groups all around us that are so in need of the gospel. So let’s resolve to reach out in 2005.