Editor’s note: The following column is adapted from a response Jonathan Hayashi wrote after a gang-related shooting outside Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago August 19.
August 19 was a normal Monday here at Uptown Baptist Church.
We started our second service that evening with “Amazing Grace,” while around 100 people in the pews waiting to hear the sermon. Then, “Bang, bang, bang!” About 20 loud noises that sounded like fireworks. In fact, that’s what our speaker said from the podium. But it was too loud to be fireworks.
Pastor Michael Allen rushed to the east side door that opens onto Sheridan Avenue. We opened the doors to chaos. It looked like a war had taken place. People running in every direction, hundreds of people on the streets, people screaming and crying. Shattered glass, bullet shells on the ground; two men I remember coming through the building, one was shot in his thighs and another in his wrist.
I knew I could have been one of them.
If I had stayed in the gang, it could have easily been me. I still remember like it was yesterday, when I found out a friend had died at age 18 because of gang activity. I knew God loved me and had a plan for my life. But what about them?
God is not willing that any should perish. The problem is us.
We would rather stay safe, while neglecting our call to evangelism and discipleship. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. The Great Commission itself is about people being with the people and living there with the people!
Evangelist Dwight L. Moody recognized this important principle. “Moody was one of the few who had the audacity and courage to go into the worst district of Chicago, the Sands,” writes Lyle Dorsett in his biography of the missionary. “Sometimes called ‘Little Hell,’ this is where Moody went to rescue souls.”
Church, we are to rise up! Let’s get out of our seats and go into the streets. We wonder why revival doesn’t break forth in our community. But where are all the Christians? We are to be salt and light, seasoned by God’s grace and holding to the teaching of Scripture. Surely, then, there will be change in our communities.
We must learn how to view both the city and the Gospel with new eyes. We must see every person as more than a number, each made in the image of God. Every number has a name, and every name has a story. We must recognize the Gospel more like an every day process than a one-time event.
Moody himself said, “Water runs down hill, and the highest hills are the great cities. If we can stir them, we shall stir the whole country.” It’s time for a fresh wind in the Windy City. We must win souls for Christ and have victory for Jesus, but there will be no victory without a battle.
Jonathan Hayashi is minister of music at Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago and a student at Moody Theological Seminary.