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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.

1 comment:

Brian Spahr said...

Hey Keith,
I'm in and will do my best to lead Graceway in the kind of missional effort you describe.

I think one of the things that makes suburban ministry so difficult is that everything about the environment is designed to portray the "perfect" life. Most of us live in HOAs... most with tight restrictions regarding uniformity. Our houses look the same... perfect boxes with perfect shutters and perfect yards with one perfect tree in the front yard that is identical to the house next door. I think it is extremely difficult for people who live in this kind of environment to openly admit when they need help.