SBC Life Articles

Compassion and Consequences

When Wiley Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif., was found guilty this summer of city code violations with respect to the church's homeless ministry, newspapers from California to New York featured the story.

The dramatic aftermath, however, has not received as much attention.

Following the trial, four of the jurors who convicted him attended services at Drake's church. The Orange County Register reported that two were visibly moved by Drake's message and said they planned to return to the church the following Sunday. They reported they were "inspired" by his message and "honored" to be at the service. The two also pledged to financially support the church's ministry which feeds and houses about forty homeless people.

Attendance that morning was twice the average, but the paper failed to report the most important news. According to Drake, twenty-four people invited Jesus into their heart.

Since, Judge Gregg L. Prickett sentenced Drake to 1,500 hours of community service for four counts of misdemeanor criminal actions that violated the city's zoning laws. But then, Prickett credited Drake for 1,500 hours already served, based on evidence presented during a three-week criminal trial.

First Southern was placed on three years' informal probation, but the ministry was allowed to continue. A progress report was to be presented to the court in November describing steps the church has taken to come into reasonable compliance with the city's terms and regulations, with the judge, rather than the city, determining what is "reasonable."

Drake's problems with the city stem from the fact he refuses to tell anyone they must leave when they have approached the church for sanctuary.

"This has been one of those circumstances where we did our best to comply with man's law, but the bottom line was, we had to obey God's law," Drake said. "God honored Psalms 41:1-2 that said, '… blessed is he that considered the poor.' I can testify that God indeed delivered us in our time of trouble and He preserved us.

"And He also said we shall be blessed," Drake continued. "One large company told us today they were sending two eighteen-wheelers loaded with food to us. Because we considered the poor, the Lord delivered us, preserved us, and God has indeed kept His promise to us."

    About the Author

  • SBC Staff