In 1878 the yellow fever pandemic ripped through our beloved city of Memphis with devastating effects. Just prior to the plague Memphis’ population was on par with Atlanta and Nashville; but when the be-deviled words of “yellow fever” began to be whispered down the alleys and streets of our city, twenty-five thousand hurriedly packed their belongings and left town. Of the fifteen thousand who remained, yellow fever killed thirteen thousand. The remaining two thousand survivors were African American’s. With such a sparse population, Memphis not only lost her status as one of the top cities in the south, but her charter as well. In a lot of ways our city has been struggling to find her way since the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Yellow fever no longer has the stigma in our society that it once had, this is in part due to the fact that we have found both the carrier and the cure for this once deadly disease. However, plagues of a different sort continue to devastate our city. Memphis’ poverty and infant mortality rates is on par with some third world countries. The educational disparity is so striking that many experts have conjectured that education is the new civil rights issue of our day. With the educational gap comes the ever widening economic chasm between the haves and the have not’s. Though our beloved city is close to seventy-percent African American, it’s our white brothers and sisters who control the purse strings.
Are you depressed yet?
So what are we to do as a church? Sadly, for many churches during the civil right’s era they were more than comfortable to preach fine homiletical masterpieces to homogenous audiences, while just outside their doors sanitation workers marched with huge placard signs shouting, “I Am A Man”. The historical problem of the church has been that she has preached a bifurcated gospel that makes a dichotomy between the body and the soul. Something is woefully wrong when the gospel that we herald doesn’t touch all aspects of a person’s life.
Jesus preached a holistic gospel. He called for people to repent, and he he healed their bodies. The first church both called sinners to turn from the error of their ways, and to sell their possessions and give to those who have need. Marching through the corridors of church history it was Christians who established some of the first hospitals, took down slavery and became a voice for the voiceless.
This month, Fellowship Memphis continues in the rich tradition of the early church by taking up what we have called our Engage Memphis Fund. Every year we come to you and ask you to give above and beyond your regular giving to help us give “a cup of water in Jesus name”. Because of your giving we were able to:
- Help people in crisis by providing food, shelter and clothing
- Invest in the next generation of leaders through our residency program
- Partner with such local ministries as our Memphis Union Mission, where we saw many come to faith in Jesus Christ, along with feeding their bodies
- Send people out on global missions trips
- Plant churches
Our commitment every year is to invest one hundred percent of your gifts in emerging leaders, people in crisis, missions initiatives, along with a host of other opportunities.
Beginning this Sunday we will start a two part series called “Engaged”. I will give more vision for our Engage Memphis fund, and you will also receive a detailed report on what we did with your funds this past year. In the mean time will you join our family by praying what God would have you to give? Help us to continue to reach the body and the soul.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich”- 2 Corinthians 8:9