If you’ve never been to a “hood” funeral then prepare to be expelled from your comfort zone. The smell of marijuana usually fills the sanctuary as individuals go about their endeavors with blatant disregard for the speaker or anyone who happens to be holding the microphone. It is often hard to hear due to the numerous private conversations going on throughout the sanctuary. Teenagers Crip-lock as they greet their peers in the middle of the isle. Young men throw up gang signs as the obituary is read. Mid-service, many walk in to view the body and walk directly back outside. Ushers attempt to quiet individuals down, but are often resisted with middle fingers and blatant disrespect for any type of order.
I recently had the unfortunate privilege of attending the funeral of an 18-year-old boy who was shot and killed on the north-east side of Columbus, OH. Many have attributed the homicide to a result of gang violence. As expected, many conflicting thoughts penetrated my mind as my fluctuating emotions attempted to locate a stable ground. Throughout the ceremony I found myself angry, but yet at peace, sad, but yet hopeful, offended, but yet thankful. As I sit and reflect upon all the fluctuation my soul experienced on that Tuesday, the overall sentiments of my heart can be summed up into one word…. PAIN.
As one who carries a relentless desire to be connected to the heart of God, my prayer has remained “Lord, I’d rather feel the pain of Your heart than not feel anything at all.” Sadly, one thing that I have recognized throughout my short time of walking with The Lord is that this is not the heart cry of our present generation. There is a numbness that has crept into our inner city schools, our local neighborhoods, and more specifically, directly into the hearts of our young African American men. This numbness provokes a conscious decision to shut down all attributes of the heart and dismiss any obligation to “feel” anything. It locks away the heart and presents a generation of careless individuals who portray the façade of fearlessness. It is a broken cistern….As I sat in the back of the funeral and silently examined my environment, the eyes of my heart painfully witnessed this broken cistern in full effect.
“And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” Matt. 24:12
An unfortunate reality is that many God-fearing believers often respond to the call of justice after a life has been taken from us, but rarely recognize the injustices our young men face as they remain in the land of the living. Not just natural injustices, but the spiritual injustices they face every time they are granted the opportunity to step foot into the House of God. They are often robbed of an opportunity for hope to be established in the heart.
With that being said, as the funeral came to an end and I was forced to examine why my heart was so broken, I realized something. It had nothing to do with the smell of marijuana in the sanctuary, or the various private conversations, or even the Crip-locking as teenage peers greeted each other within the isles. What broke my heart more than anything else was the preacher of the Gospel stepped into the pulpit, grabbed the microphone, and began to speak to a broken generation on behalf of the heart of God, BUT DID NOT GIVE THEM HOPE. He did not exude the love of my risen Savior, but he rushed through the process and used the bible as a service guide instead of an invitation to life! What broke my heart was that I was forced to watch about a hundred teenagers walk out that sanctuary un-impacted.
If the Church of Jesus Christ in this nation does not come into a revelation of “proximity”, we will fail to usher in the greatest harvest our generation has ever seen. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has always been, and will continue to be an invitation. The doctrine of the Apostles was not simply preached, but was thoroughly lived out by its messengers. Our life preaches a soundless sermon! As believers, when we make it our priority to be proximate with those who are broken within this generation, we consequently bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to life without ever preaching a sermon. Many young men who deal with issues of fatherlessness are not looking for a preacher, or a minister, or even a pastor. They are often simply looking for someone who cares enough to be there. My prayer is that God would give the Church of Jesus Christ grace to impact our inner city neighborhoods. May our faces be familiar throughout the worn down areas of this city.
Some writing is educational, others are reflective or informative. As I write today, my only agenda is to remind you of something... there is a broken generation waiting to be loved and nurtured. The sooner we get out of our Sunday service comfort zones and actually open up dialogue with this generation, the sooner we can see the fruit of our prayers. Don’t miss the harvest because it arrived in an unfamiliar package… This is my prayer.
“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” John 4:35
Josiah Dunlap serves as a minister and musician at Hope City House of Prayer. He has an unresting burden to bring restoration to the church and its impact on inner city communities. By day he serves as a co director of HCHOP 24/7 prayer room and By night he operates as an intervention specialist at the Buckeye Ranch, Mental Health Facility. His love for the younger generation compelled him to co-create an outreach ministry, S.O.S, as a vehicle to bring encounter to the community. While his desire for Jesus to be glorified burns brightly in him, he has discovered a new found joy in his newly formed positions as a husband and devout father.