Parties for Prostitutes @ 3AM

agnes

One of my favorite short films of all time is Rik Swartzwelder’s The Least of These. Rik does a masterful job of cinematically telling Tony Compolo’s story about a party he threw for Agnes, a low-rent hooker who had never had a birthday celebration.

The crucial moment in the film comes not as the party goers yell “surprise!” or as shocked Agnes carries the cake out of the diner. It comes when Tony is found out to be a preacher, and the incensed diner owner demands to know what kind of “church” Campolo belongs to.

“I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning.

The reaction retorted by one can be seen in the faces of all those who gathered, “No you don’t. There’s no church like that. If there was, I’d join it. I’d join a church like that.”

After that powerful line, I always end up asking myself, “Would I join a church like that?” Would I seek it out? Where is the church that parties with prostitutes; banquets with the broken; and raves with the rejected? Or maybe the more subtle. . . where’s the church that loves the lonely, the losers, and the left-out?

The Least of These draws it name from a powerful passage in Matthew 25:40 “inasmuch as you did it to the least of these My bretheren, you did it unto Me.”

The Lord of the party, delighted in throwing shin-digs in the most unlikely places. Wherever there was a cook-out, you would always find Jesus hanging out, with the most unlikely crowd. Weddings, tail-gating, country fairs, and graduations, Jesus likely was in the crowd. . . the wrong crowd. The New Testament makes it repeatedly clear that “The Way, the Truth, and the Life,” was also the Life of the party.

Jesus reveals the Kingdom of GOD is a party. Christ came to create a church that loves to party. He loves to surprise the unsuspecting with awesome gifts.

And His church parties hard– in the hard places with the hard people who have certainly found it hard to have anything to celebrate.

May I belong to a church that throws parties for the poor in spirit–prostitutes, preachers, and politicians.

May I belong to a faith that loves to party.

May I belong to the Lord of the party.

encounter: Read Matthew 25:31-46 then reflect on the following questions with others or on your own (You are always welcome to post your reflections):

  • Growing up, who did you typically invite to your parties? What was the criteria you had in mind when thinking who to invite?
  • When you throw a party for someone, how are you hoping the party will make them feel? What does it say about your relationship to that person?
  • Closer to home than the prisoners and prostitutes “out there,” who are the “least of these” that you know and have relationships with? Beginning with those you know, what will you do today for them in honor of the “Lord of the party?”
  • What kind of church do you want to belong to? Explain.

About A Allan Martin, PhD, CFLE

Jeremiah 24/7
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13 Responses to Parties for Prostitutes @ 3AM

  1. carolynmacomber says:

    Funny, that you would post this today/tonight. Yesterday I was having a deep conversation with several people. One of those in the group was someone who leaned towards the behavior aspect of spirituality more than the relational aspect. Shall I put it bluntly – they were a bit legalistic – no, not a bit – a lot. I shared this story with the group. I shared that this was the church that I wanted to belong too – a church that holds parties for prostitutes. I also shared that I thought others wanted this type of church too.

    Thank you for the reminder that Jesus loved to celebrate and he didn’t leave anyone out of the invitation – all were invited – no matter their personalities, position, power, or anything else – all were welcome to the party. Thanks!

  2. this is the kind of church we are in Atlanta… we walk the streets every week looking for drug addicts, prostitutes, homeless, any of the “least of these,” who aren’t hard to find in this city. It’s amazing what God does when we make ourselves available. I met a homeless crack-cocaine addict on the streets about 8 weeks ago, talked with him for a long time. He told me he needed a friend who doesn’t use drugs (I don’t anymore)… I asked if I could pray with him. A few weeks later, he gave his life to God and he’s been clean for over a month… he found a Bible in the garbage and he’s reading it every day and says he’s “living in the Spirit.” He still lives in a homeless shelter and he wants to get involved in outreach… what a great place… the best church doesn’t happen in a building… Jesus was a homeless man.

    • Shane says:

      This is awesome! I love it!!! Wow, to think that someone discarded a Bible as garbage is sad, to say the least, but to know that someone – whom himself is labelled as rubbish by society – finds the Bible and regardes it as absolute treasure – life changing treasure – is a powerful testimony in itself.

      Kinda reminds us of God’s amazing love and grace upon humankind. The kind of love that can only see the priceless treasure within the discarded ‘garbage’. The kind of grace that picks us up, dusts us off and reveals new mercies with each turn of the pages of life.

      Many of us can learn from the attitude of this “homeless man”.

  3. Diane says:

    I am praying for a spirit, a spirit that will grow like a flicker into a massive inferno. So that joy that is spread in this place, will pass into the hearts of many or few–because of a love everlasting.

    That rendition of “Shout to the Lord” on American Idol last week was inspiring.

  4. elisa says:

    if i were completely honest with myself (and you all) i would say i like the idea of a church that parties with prostitutes and homeless but i have to say that i have reservations. i like the “idea” but am not sure i have the courage to actually do it. in response to your questions, allan, growing up i did have friends who weren’t “mainstream” christian or sda but they weren’t my best friends and honestly they weren’t at the top of my invite list for birthday parties. i admire those like chris who can connect with people who are in a hard place but i admit my lack of courage to open up to them myself.

    Lord, forgive me for my hestiancy and desire to be “safe”. Please show me how to love these people too. I ask that you will send someone into my life that needs to be cared for and that pushes me out of my comfort zone.

  5. Renee says:

    Jesus, teach me to open my eyes and my heart! You came to “dwell with us” – pitch your tent with us. Help me not to allow the thought that you wanted to break down camp when you ascended set itself up in my head. Help me to keep pitching my tent with people who are alone, or without shelter. Show me in your word and in your world what it means to be a follower, not just a believer of You! Keep me in your presence so that it starts to overflow onto the lives of others through me. Amen.

  6. Lianro says:

    Awesome! I saw this at SonScreen in St. Louis in ’04 and was totally blown away. It’s so inspirational and really helps us refocus on what ‘church’ really is. Many churches are so far from where they should be in terms of reaching out and accepting. Praying constantly…

  7. aamphd says:

    I appreciate the comments here and look forward to more. Eager for your thoughts. In particular response to Elisa’s comment, I hear you.

    And I can concur that at times we romanticize the idea of a church loving GODless sinners. However our lives are not like the movies, nor like a Baptist preacher’s stories [tic].

    However, I believe this story/short film moves me because this simple act was re-humanizing. The prostitute became Agnes. The whore became the birthday girl. And for a moment, a brief moment, she experienced people giving to her, instead of taking away from her.

    Granted Chris’ church and Fusion are an awesome literal application of this story, but there are many other places where you can find the lonely, the losers, and the left-out.

    I would dare say that it’s not only the low-rent hooker that needs compassion. The over-exposed socialite. The discarded senior citizen. The reclusive co-worker. The anal CEO. The type-cast pastor’s kid. The widowed neighbor. The struggling single dad. The aspiring artist.

    As close as walking across the room I believe you can find someone whose story will reveal a heart felt need, giving you clues for what type of party to throw.

    Any good party includes someone giving a gift with joy, and someone receiving it with gratitude.

    I want to belong to a church that knows how to party.

  8. Aristede Dukes says:

    Some days as I struggle with my own walk with God I wonder whether God may view me as the whore. If so I hope that he sends someone to love me!!

    I too pray that I have the courage to minister to those who challenge my sense of normalcy. We all have the tendency to turn our nose up when we encounter the “whores” of this world. The example that Jesus set while he was on earth becomes all the more amazing when we look at this story because these are the people that he commonly associated with. What a wonderful Savior we have.

    Lord, please be with us all! Help us in some small way to be able to walk in the path that you blazed while you were here on earth!! Amen.

  9. manny says:

    man, the idea sounds great. it screams of what Jesus would want us to do. i applaud and praise God for the ministry chris is doing in ATL, but elisa’s comments resonate strongly with me, in that i, too, am hesitant. i love the short film allan refers to. i’ve watched it countless times and it does stir something in my soul to want to move from holding back to springing forth into action, but i need courage. i need to lose preconceived ideas. i need the mind and heart of Christ.

  10. Tara VinCross says:

    Great discussion and sharing – thank you! I have been reflecting on how easy it is to coast through life on busy mode and miss opportunities to be present with people. I like the concept of “re-humanizing” each other. We wear so many labels in how people relate to us and what they desire from us – as consumer, worker, voter, church program participant, etc… To simply stop and see each other for who we are, wow, that breaths fresh life into my soul. I pray that I would be aware of those who are around me – wherever they live or whatever they do – and stop to see them for who they are.

    My prayer is, love through me Lord. As you have loved on me, love your other children through me. May I be touchable, reachable, accessible to people. God, be incarnate in my life I pray. Help us as we struggle to be your church.

  11. aamphd says:

    Hey Elisa! Sure would love to hear more about your life and GOD’s reply to your prayer to move from a “safe” life to living out of your comfort zone.

    In every strata of our world there are the “least of these.” I love the discussion here because it is a reminder that there are invisible people in the margin, and all GODfollowers are compelled to not only see them but also to be agents of visibility.

    May we have ears to hear and eyes to see.
    As Jesus does.

  12. Now that’s the kind of party I think has eternal joy! PARTY ON DUDES! (and dudets)

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