That’s not quite the point of Pastor Timmy Gibson’s field trip, which he’s calling “24 Hours in the Life of a Homeless Person,” scheduled for tomorrow. But if it goes according to plan, the stunt will land Gibson and his church on television and attract an audience for his September sermon series, “Why We Christians Suck Sometimes.”
Gibson – who really prefers to be called Timmy – is the pastor at Olathe Life Fellowship, a nine-year-old congregation that meets on Sundays in the auditorium at Olathe South High School. His goal, as realized through down-to-earth sermons and a blond faux-hawk, is to be a cool-guy pastor who disabuses his parishioners of the notion that Christians are hateful, judgmental and hypocritical toward the ways of the modern world.
“I think I’m part of a movement of churches lead by pastors like me who’ve had it – not in a jaded way, but, well, jaded in a good way,” Gibson says. “We’ve just said, a lot of this is a bunch of crap. We need to be authentic. We need to stop playing church and get out there and get our hands dirty.”
On Saturday, Gibson and another Olathe Life Fellowship pastor, Brandon Hollis, plan to live like homeless people, spending the night on the street before showing up at church on Sunday morning, unshowered, to preach about the experience.
“We’re not trying to be unique to be unique,” Gibson says. “But we want to spend 24 hours in the life of a homeless person, so we went to the Kansas City Rescue Mission and talked with them about the best way to go about it. We’re going to have lunch somewhere where they hand out a free lunch, stand in line like everyone else, eat with them, and maybe head to Westport.”
Last February, Gibson lead a series of sermons on sex. And a few months ago, he spent a month preaching that God loves everybody, and encouraged his congregation to be accepting of homosexuals. He kicked off that series by holding up Fred Phelps-like signs on the Plaza -- only his read “God Loves Gays.”
The folks at the rescue mission advised Gibson that he should probably not just waltz under any overpass and assume he can spend the night there. “It might be someone’s home and they might kill you or stab you or something,” Gibson explains. So he and Hollis will likely pick a spot closer to the Plaza to camp.
“We’re going to park a car at the Plaza with water and snacks to give the homeless people, and that’s where we’ll store some shoes and clothes, so if we meet someone who needs shoes we can run back and get them for them,” Gibson says.
Which doesn’t sound quite like a night in the life of a homeless person. In any event, Gibson probably won’t have a problem finding something to preach about on Sunday. – Nadia Pflaum