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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Missionaries to Indian Trail

"Serving in the suburbs is strange and hard. Unlike the inner cities, suburbs tend to bury their troubles, so that it takes time and effort just to uncover what needs there actually are. Despite the stereotypes, the immigrant, the impoverished, the addicted and the homeless are often present in the suburbs, and require the love and sacrifice that they do elsewhere. They’re just harder to find. " from an article entitled The Suburbs by Jordan Peacock
This resonates with what I have thought about Indian Trail.  The Commonplace is located in this small city.  From our location here in Indian Trail Common Cupboard has attracted a crew of 85 helpers and servants from 18 or so local churches.  But most of the food that is delivered  goes out to homes that are not in Indian Trail.  Of the 175 families per month that we serve there are only a handful in Indian Trail.  Is there really that few people that have a need here?  No, I don't think so.  The needs are more hidden here.

Not to long ago my neighbor moved out of his house overnight.  I did not know what was going on.  Turns out their house was sold in foreclosure.  As far as I know, none of us in the community knew they were having any trouble.  

Folks in need are all around us, but it is not as easy as driving into a low income area of Monroe or Charlotte to find them.  We need to search out the needs.  There are plenty of people in our own neighborhood that are hurting, hopeless, lonely, confused, addicted, depressed, confused, frightened, or suffering from a variety of distresses.  There are hungry people, people on the verge of homelessness, kids struggling all around us.  Although pride will often get in the way, love and kindness will break through.  But will we search them out.

One of the first things that you and I can do to begin to see the need is to get to know our neighbors and the people we come in contact with.  They may be next door, or behind the cash register, or who serving us our morning coffee at the drive through.  I need to step up more in this area.  May be just have a cook out this spring and invite folks to come.  Maybe we could go to the PTA meeting and talk to the people sitting next to us.  Or, just be really kind and thoughtful to the waitress that brings you dinner.

But I think it goes a little deeper than just changing a few details of our days.  The way you and I think has everything to do with what we do, the habits we create, our character, and the direction of our lives.  There is a little "poem" I learned years ago.  It goes like this.
Sow a thought, reap an action.
Sow an action, reap a habit.
So a habit, reap a character.
Sow a character, reap a destiny.
Recently some of the bloggers I read, the pastors at my church, and others I know have been reading a new book.  It is on my list to start soon.  But everything I have heard thus far has been good.  Here is a short section that impressed Rck Miegs at The Blind Beggar.  It seems to address the core of the dilemma for me.  It may very well be our mindset (or you might say spiritual orientation) that is the core problem.  

In the book "Missional Renaissance", Reggie McNeal, presents in this quote a comparison of two models of churches.  What I want us to see is the two cultures that develop as a result ... Member & Missionary. (Itallics are mine)

"The attractional (come & see) model of church creates a ‘member culture,’ in which people join a particular church and support that organization with their attendance, their money, their prayers, and their talent. The flow is toward the church, which is always at the center of the action, where the big game is being played.

The missional (go & be) church is made up of missionaries, who are playing the big game every day. They live their lives with the idea that they are on a mission trip. On mission trips, people focus on the work of God around them, alert to the Spirit’s prompting, usually serving people in very tangible ways, often in way that involve some sacrifice or even discomfort. Life on mission is more intentional and more integrated. While the concerns of life (family, work, leisure) are pursued, they are part of a larger story being played out for the missionary."
The need is a greater embrace of a missional mindset. We are missionaries in our communities.  If we shifted our whole world view to being a "sent people",  missionaries of a missionary God, it may open our eyes more lovingly to people around us.  It may break down our compartmental view of our busy lives and give focused meaning to our daily interactions with people.  It may motivate us to find the time and make the effort to uncover what hidden needs there actually are in our community.  

As the reality that we are a "sent people", missionaries, it will motivate us to find ways to speak God's love through our actions and our mundane interactions.  Questions like how can we demonstrate the gospel of peace in our neighborhoods, would gain more brain time.  The priority of finding ways to foster reconciliation and restoration, will become topics of conversation in our gatherings.   And we will seek out new and creative avenues to draw folks to faith as we live as ambassadors of great "Lover of our Souls".  

Oh, and what kind of people will we become!  How we will pursue the life of faith, and the formation of our innermost being in the image of Christ! With what fervor we will pray for our neighbors and our community!  What authentic life-giving communities will we create to bring to fullness to the aroma of Christ in our city!

So folks in the Indian Trail area who love Jesus, what do you think?  Can we dream together?Can we become a band of missionaries committed to our community?  Interested?  Post your comments and lets dream and explore and become together.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Called to Do the Impossible

When Jesus sent his disciples out on mission, he told them to be poor, to take nothing with them. And he told them to do things that were impossible for them to do all by themselves. So it is for all missions. Communities and their members are called to be poor and to do impossible things, such as to build community and to bring healing, reconciliation, forgiveness and wholeness to people. Mission is to bring the life of God to others, and this can only be done if communities and people are poor and humble, letting the life of God flow through them  - Jean Vanier

Saturday, March 7, 2009

"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."

I was driving into work the other day, and I was listening to my local NPR station for most of the trip. (I used to always listen, but beginning the first of the year I have been using most of that time to pray and listen to the Bible on CD.) There was a local story about churches and non-profits facing hard economic times. Believe me, I understand that to be true.

This past Sunday I spoke at Faith Community Church in Waxhaw. I don't get to speak much since I gave up my teaching and pulpit ministry to work developing Common Heart Missional Community. It was a very small crowd. The choir was most excellent. One testimony in particular was rousing as the brother shared that his shift/department at work has had no cut backs or lay offs. All co-workers were wondering how that team is being spared. My brother's answer, "This department has someone praying." As I sat through the service I wondered if I should share what I had planned.

Yesterday, I listened to this verse in Proverbs, it stood out. Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed. - Proverbs 19:17 I hate to sound so unspiritual, but the Lord is a bank that will not fail! He will repay. Over at Commmon Cupboard Journal there is a virtual food drive going on. Anyone want to lend to the Lord ... Let me here an "AMEN".

Rahm Emanuel said recently in describing US President Barrack Obama's aggressive legislative agenda, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." (WSJ)

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” And after he said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit." John 20:21-22 ESV

These thoughts really do tie together. Give me a minute. I think I can do it in the next paragraph ...

We as followers of Jesus have been sent on a mission by Jesus. It is the same mission that Jesus received from the Father. It also needs to be fulfilled in a similar way. After Jesus told the disciples this he also breathed on them and gave them a command to receive the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I think we as Jesus followers, and especially as "church people & leaders", we get distracted by many things. We forget that Jesus organized his whole movement around his mission. Especially when times are good, we get distracted.

When times get rough the natural inclination is to withdraw and protect. I know that in the current economic crisis I have pulled back spending, tried to pay off more debt, been more aware of my boss's moods , and have certainly prayed more for my family and other families I know that they are having it tough.

Strangely enough I think that these harder times can cause us to be even more distracted from the mission of Jesus and his Church. Even as many churches and non-profits are experiencing difficulties and as members of our congregations are experiencing the same ...I think it might be time for a "Missional Stimulus Package" .

Many churches are reducing their financial support of missionaries. Many are focusing inward. I think what we need is to spend our treasures, talents and time changing our structures and focus outward, not hoarding them on programs and projects inside our church walls.

I thank God for my job. I thank God that he answers prayers and has kept my brother's whole shift and department from having hours and jobs cut. It excites me to hear these things. BUT, I can't help but thinking about the other departments and the other shifts, indeed the workers in my own company that lost their jobs when one of our plants was closed.

I can't help but think that the words of Rahm Emanuel might apply to our churches, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." Indeed this may be a serious crisis. But, just maybe it might be the exact right time to rethink, repent, reprioritze, restructure and reorientate all that we do as the Church of Jesus Christ. Maybe it is time for a "Missional Stimulus Package" that will energize and reinvigorate us to look beyond ourselves and our problems, and give ourselves more fully to God's mission out there in our hurting communities, neighborhoods, and places of employment.

What form could this package take?

Denying the Ressurection

Peter Rollins brought me to the verge of tears ...
Without equivocation or hesitation I fully and completely admit that I deny the resurrection of Christ. This is something that anyone who knows me could tell you, and I am not afraid to say it publicly, no matter what some people may think…

I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system.

However there are moments when I affirm that resurrection, few and far between as they are. I affirm it when I stand up for those who are forced to live on their knees, when I speak for those who have had their tongues torn out, when I cry for those who have no more tears left to shed.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Virtual Food Drive

Common Cupboard is running a "virtual food drive" on Common Cupboard Journal.  The first Saturday of the month is the busiest one for the cupboard.  Usually 45-40 families receive food on that weekend.  At the end of last weekend the cupboard looked pretty bare.  A food drive was called for ... but how to get it all in the cupboard in 4 days.  Thus the "'virtual food drive" was born.  You can chose to help out by donating 1, 2, 3 bags of groceries, a whole shopping cart, or a variety of cases of cans we often use.  Pop on over there and check it out and pitch in for the food drive.  Click here --->  Virtual Food Drive.