Thursday, October 6, 2011


This article was originally published in CATALYSTSPACE Aug. 11, 2011
by Palmer Chinchen


If I’m honest, that was my very first thought when I watched the matatu (Kenyan passenger minivan) crammed with seventeen or eighteen people get hit, flip, and roll onto its roof, which collapsed.

Sociologists call it the phenomenon of noninvolvement. Researchers have found that bystanders often have this odd tendency not to respond to someone in dire need. Sometimes it’s out of fear, sometimes it’s simply stage fright—the worst is when people do nothing because they think it’s somebody else’s problem.

We can spend a lifetime living that way.


When I saw the matatu flip, that was my second thought: Palmer, you keep telling people that what they do matters!

Too often we think what we do or how we live doesn’t matter. We think it doesn’t matter when we spend $348 on True Religion designer jeans. We think it doesn’t matter when a church in Dallas is spending 115 million dollars on their new building.

It matters…

…because the way you live every day is a picture of your soul.

So I urgently yelled to my Nairobi taxi driver, “Stop!”

He jumped out with me and ran to the crumpled van and began easing people over the shattered glass. Within just a few minutes everyone was out, and miraculously no one appeared seriously injured.

Just when I started to think, “Bravo, Palmer—see, good thing you stopped,” my driver shouted, “They’re killing the other driver!” I spun around to see an angry mob stoning and beating the driver who had hit the matatu … to death.

SOMETIMES YOU MUST ACT in order to stop the very worst things from happening.”

That was the heart of my message in twenty-three cities last fall, when I was the speaker on the Hungry for Love tour with Sanctus Real, Leeland, and The Afters. “You must act!” We keep thinking somebody else will, but Christ left this work of the kingdom to you!

There’s two lives to be lived. One is the life you live every day. The life that many times ends up becoming a tired rut sapping you of every last ounce of creative passion. But then there’s the life you dream of living. That’s the second life. For many it’s the life-unlived.

So I write this today to inspire you, to challenge you to abandon your comfortable routine and discover the exhilarating life God has waiting for you.

Back to Kenya: Without thinking, I sprinted toward the mob. They call it mob justice in east Africa. But it’s not just; it’s sick vigilantism. I knew without a doubt they would kill him if I didn’t act.

When the matatu flips, you must act.


After visiting dozens of churches on the Hungry for Love Tour I came home discouraged. Generation-excess has moved into the suburban church.

In one large church the pastor proudly stated, “We just spent a million dollars on this sound system!”

I about choked. What in the world are we doing spending a million dollars on a sound system? And why do so many churches need I-Mag (Image Magnification). That’s the awesome technology that projects a really big picture of your preacher on a screen.

Here’s the simple truth we miss: just because we can … doesn’t mean we should.

I say all this because the church’s focus must turn out. We’ve focus far too much of our effort and resource inward.

How will we ever rebuild countries like Haiti, or stop the spread of malaria in Africa, or free girls from sex-slavery in Thailand if we keep building kingdoms on street corners in the suburbs – instead of taking the Kingdom of God to the world.

The matatu’s flipped.


Forcing my way to the middle of the raging mob, I dropped to my hands and knees over the man’s head, thinking, At least they’ll have to hit me first.

“Stop, stop! Please stop!” I yelled.

“Get out of the way—we want to kill him!” the angry young men shouted back.

“No,” I answered loudly but calmly as I looked up. “Nobody’s going to die here today.”

As they slowly dropped their stones and backed away, I helped the beaten man sit up, then carefully pulled him to his feet and brought him to the rear bumper of his van, where we sat until the mob was gone.

What I’m not saying is that Palmer Chinchen is a hero. I’m not. I simply try to live the way I tell others that Jesus told us to live—like your life matters. What you do matters.

So let’s stop being so self-indulgent and stop growing inwardly focused churches, and realize that God can use your life—your church—to change what is messed up out there.

You see, if I wait, if I don’t act—if you wait, if you don’t act—the man on the side of the road dies … literally.

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