Some Pastors are Now Preaching in the Streets

Come as you are - it's a message ministers have always used to encourage nonbelievers, the unsaved and unfaithful to attend church. But it's a phrase many people don't really believe in.

"We found out that in years back, we tried to keep people that were on drugs and alcohol away from the church - we've done that out of ignorance," said Rev. Oscar Dixon, Jr., pastor of Overcomers Through Faith Ministries. "Some people frown if a lady comes in the church and she has on a pantsuit. Wear whatever you have. If you have a drug problem, come."

And if you don't come to the church, many ministers will come to you. Some pastors are no longer saving souls in the sanctuary, they are taking their sermons to the streets. Rev. Robert Gipson said this kind of ministering helped him put his life back on track.

"What we have to do is continue to show them love," said Gipson, pastor of Long Chapel C.M.E. Church in Lufkin. "When we show them love - we may not see the change in our lifetime - there are changes that are coming because the seed has been planted, and then God is the one who brings the increase in their lives as he has brought in our lives."

Bettie Kennedy started going out into Lufkin communities back in 1981 and later began visiting sick and senior residents and jail and prison inmates. Years later, she gets phone calls and letters from some of the people she's reached.

Rev. Kennedy said, "It seems like they came out of the woodworks, and as they came out to just get a bowl of beans and rice that I had, I began to cry as I began to think about those that were coming. I ended up emptying the pots that I had and didn't have anything left as hard as it was raining. It is dangerous and there are certain things you need to look for and be cautious of, but [the unsaved] are people too."

Members of the Lufkin Interdenominational Ministers Union preach at county jails and mentor in Lufkin schools. They also go into neighborhood parks to pass out groceries and clothes to families in need.

The ministers have help delivering their message thanks to a Lufkin business owner. Instead of throwing away pounds of food left over from each day, the Texas Baking Company gathers up sandwiches, pastries and other snacks, which is later delivered to the hungry and homeless.

Owner April Didrikson said it's her way of sharing with the community the many blessings she's received.

"We don't always guess correctly an amount to make every day," Didrikson said. "We may have some left at the end of the day and what better way to help the community than provide people that need food with nourishment."

April often shares her message of giving back with young girls in the community. Area students sometimes ride along with her, delivering food to those in need.

The Lufkin Interdenominational Ministers Union meets for prayer every Thursday at noon. For more information on how you can participate in their efforts to reach lost souls, call Rev. Oscar Dixon, Jr. at (936) 637-2823.