A few men from our staff at Crosspointe Waterford Lakes went Seattle, WA a couple weeks ago to a church planting conference held by Acts29 at Mars Hill Church. Our company consisted of Jared Davis (Lead Pastor), Brent Reid (Deacon/Mission & Administration), Tommy Wong (Deacon/Shift College Ministry) and myself. The conference was transformational in a lot of ways. We learned so much from seasoned church planters about God’s glory, sharing the gospel, loving our wives and children and of course church planting. After two days of intense sessions at the conference, we concluded our stay in Seattle by going downtown and seeing the sites. After a great sushi dinner and site seeing, this is what ensued…
The night sky was beginning to make it’s way over us like a cool blanket as we walked back down the main stretch toward the market place in the heart of Seattle, Washington. Full of sushi and fellowship, we decided to take a final look at the first Starbucks before heading back to our vehicle. The pavement was buzzing with tourists shopping, locals leaving work and street performers trying to earn enough to eat that night.
As I walked in succession with Jared I looked to my right and saw a man relieving himself on an alley wall. “That’s real cool.” I murmured as we continued through the crowd. I couldn’t help but continue to rebroadcast the things that I had learned the last two days over and over again in my mind. I kept asking myself if I were leading worship for God’s glory or my own. My syndicated conference reel would have continued to play if it hadn’t been interrupted by someone screaming, “Sir, please stop!”
I looked up to see three asian women in a sort of tug-o-war with a latino man in a puffy jacket. The struggle continued as were drew closer only to end in the man falling over backwards and hastily getting up, walking away.
I followed him with my eyes and our stares connected.
He was afraid.
I was confused.
His pace quickened as I realize what I just witnessed.
I yelled to the women, “Ma’am! Did he just steal your purse?”
“Yes, yes! Thief! Thief!” They cried.
As our stares connected once more, he turned and ran.
Immediately I began sprinting after him. I wasn’t even aware of the seriousness of what I was doing.
He turned into an alley. I turned into the alley. The whole time I screamed, “Stop! Do you want to go to jail? Give it up man!” Although those words were coming from my mouth, my brain was screaming, “What are you doing? You’re chasing a purse snatcher through an alley in Seattle! What if he has a gun? What if he has a knife? What if this is a trap and he’s leading you into an alley where there will be multiple men waiting for you.”
My thoughts were interrupted as I looked to my right to see that my Lead Pastor had caught up with me.
As we gained on the thief, he turned back onto the main drag with us in close pursuit, my words of caution and pleading still echoing off the brick buildings of downtown. In a moment where Jared and I were about to tackle the purse-snatcher, he made a bold dash into traffic, Jared making it through and me almost getting plowed by a taxi cab.
The thief, in his dash into traffic, fell; throwing the purse away from him thinking that we would be satisfied with that.
We were not satisfied.
Jared continued to pursue the man, grabbing him by the coat. I ran around the cab and grabbed the purse, remembering all the television specials about pickpockets and how they work in groups of three. By this time, Brent had caught up and had the man by the other side of his jacket.
Not really knowing what to do, and believing he still had more of the woman’s belongings we began to try to subdue the thief only to be interrupted by a goliath sized bouncer spearing the man to the pavement like he was auditioning for the WWE. In a moment’s notice, there were seven bouncers surrounding the man yelling very threatening things to him while they cuffed him and confiscated his open containers of alcohol (which to my knowledge was the reason why it was so easy to catch up to him.)
We returned the purse to the women but they were too scared to report the incident to the police. The bouncers eventually let the man go and we made our way back to the first Starbucks where we received free coffee for our efforts in helping the women.
As I checked out of the coffee line I looked out the window to see the man walking by with two other men. One of whom was the man from the beginning of the story, relieving himself on the alley wall.
The rest of the night was littered with the retelling of the story, embellishing our heroics in a jovial way; feeling like we had proven our manhood and not cowered at the opportunity to provide justice.
As I sit and reflect on that night in Seattle, I can’t help but remember a verse my father has instilled in me since I was a boy.
8Be of sober spirit, be on the alert Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8 NASB)
There’s nothing extraordinary about me or the men who were with me that night. We’re not built like professional athletes. We don’t possess any skills that would be instrumental in warding off an angry mob. We’re just simple church planters trying to spread the gospel of Christ for the glory of God. But there is one thing we were that night.
We were alert.
You never know when you’ll be required to do something you’d never dream of doing so continually be on the alert. You may not be asked to catch a thief. It may be as simple as recognizing a tender conversation that needs to be had; or time spent with someone who needs a friend. You may just be asked to be humble and listen. Whatever it is that God will put in your path, be ready; be alert; be postured for the glory of God.