What’s stopping you? What’s stopping your community? Are the situational possibilities too risky for action, or are the possible situations from your inaction too risky? In other words, as a result of you and your community doing nothing, will housing, academics, and parent/child relationships actually improve at the elementary school down the road? What about the elderly singles in your neighborhood? What about the unacknowledged, ever-growing, and complicated dilemma of underaged drinking? I could go on, but you get the point.
Problems. Everywhere. Brokenness. Everywhere. Evil. Everywhere. Hidden, lurking, and aggressive. But remember: tomb. empty! I am going to write that one more time: TOMB. EMPTY!
Remember when Jesus vanished, and the disciples were “looking intently up into the sky” with deer-in-the-headlights eyes and drool rushing out the left side of their mouths? “…suddenly, two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky?'”
Consider this blog another form of the same question. This time…for and to us…the 21st century church. Why are many of us standing here looking into the sky? These disciples walked with the King, and so are we. Why are we, oftentimes, paralyzed, down right slow, or just sitting around waiting for Jesus to come back?
Bursting through Hell’s Gates
Let me go at this another way. I know many talented, creative, encouraging, compassionate, dependable, gentle, resourceful, patient, sincere, responsible, alert, benevolent, enduring, cooperative, and generous followers of Jesus. These friends love God, love the church, and generally want to be like Jesus. They have tremendous ideas, and could really initiate an advancement for the Kingdom of God; however, when face-to-face with challenge and invitation to act on their ideas, they seem content to stare into the sky hoping that everyone else will forget about them and simply walk back into the status quo.
To me, that’s a problem. Maybe I’m the only one; however, I cannot help but consider all the compelling and enticing life that could abundantly sprout from the ideas, risks, and vitality of these gifted and empowered Jesus-following friends of mine. So, that’s what this is about.
My friend, Lisa Schwarz, is a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of 6. Her life was stable, healthy, and admirable until she acted upon an idea given her by the Lord. What about the unrecognized, lost, and forgotten women in her quaint and family-friendly suburban community? Girlfriends kicked to the streets by angry boyfriends? Mothers prostituting themselves to feed their children? Women jumping from man to man in search of identity, belonging, and purpose?
Who is advocating for them? Who is pursuing them? Who is rescuing them?
Lisa responded to the Lord’s calling; and consequently, he sent her back into her own city. In March 2013, Crazy 8 Ministries celebrated 2 years of counseling, discipling, conferencing, teaching, and providing. Crazy 8 offers seasons of respite and restoration, biblical counseling, life skills, and benevolence help, and two warm, inviting, and safe homes where they come alongside (formerly) homeless women and children. They are connecting the disconnected to Christ, family, and healing.
Speaking of Crazy 8, one day last summer, Lisa called me, because she needed temporary living space for a new family. Back then, there was only one warm, inviting, and safe home; however, remodeling was in-progress on the structure that would become the second Crazy 8 home. At the time, we did not have room, so I called my friend, Gilberto (aka Gibby).
“Hey dude. Here’s the situtation. Could you take in a mother and her two teen-aged children for ‘a couple weeks?'” I asked.
“Well, we do have an extra bedroom. Let me consult with my wife and call you back.” he responded.
Less than 5 minutes later, Gibby called me agreeing to take in three people he had never met for “a couple weeks.” If I remember correctly, I think “a couple weeks” actually turned out to be four weeks. Regardless, Gibby and his wife were presented with an idea, and instead of retorting with a multitude of reasons as to why the situation would not work for them, they embraced and acted on the idea with a simple “yes.”
Speaking of purposely forging new relationships with unknown people, I have a friend who lives in a nice neighborhood, the kind where hedges are trimmed flawlessly and home-owners associations foam at the mouth for a chance to write corrective letters to residents. One problem though: my friend and his wife abruptly realized they’d lived in this neighborhood for a while, but did not know any of their neighbors. So, they purposely set out to meet and begin relationships with their neighbors by having more of a family front yard presence.
Eventually, they would see a neighbor out picking up the mail, mowing grass, or walking the dog, and conversations would begin. Eventually, they not only learned their neighbors names, but began understanding their likes and dislikes and hearing stories about their lives. Eventually, they invited the neighbors from across the street over for dinner.
Hospitality. Invitation. Sharing. You are welcome in my home. You are welcome to sit with me at my table. You are valuable enough to me that I am willing to clean my house, craft you a meal, and lock up the dog so he doesn’t bite you on the ankle.
When Jesus lived on earth, table fellowship was a big deal. To recline at the table and share a meal with someone meant something. This description by Mark Moore contains the depth necessary to understand what was happening when Jesus ate with people:
In a social atmosphere that stressed the importance of exclusivism and purity, and in a cultural climate that stressed these invaluables were to be attained through eating, Jesus chose to dine with the most unlikely folk–those outside the community of salvation. He disregarded the laws that governed Israel’s community, which were to bring about Israel’s ultimate hope, and made his own rules. Through his table fellowship, Jesus revealed that forgiveness of sins and readmission into God’s people was attainable through him, not through the traditional, national channels. He also revealed that, on the basis of his own authority, those who ate with him would indeed be accepted by God and invited into his kingdom. In short, Jesus’ table fellowship was an acted parable of renewed Israel.
Somewhere…in the midst of children picking up toys, spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove, and brewing a cup of coffee during dessert, through simple, freely offered table fellowship, my friend and his wife were, as Alan Hirsch describes, “little Jesuses” to their neighbors.
Go Get ‘Em!
Okay, I went on a story-tangent, but for good reason. I’m trying to nail a point, so listen here, my talented, creative, and idea-generating friends. Don’t lose the forest for the trees. I have no idea what that means, but I have always wanted to use it.
If you act on your idea, some of you will start non-profits. Some of you will allow strangers to live in your home. Some of you will invite another over dinner. Some of you will do something else that’s equally amazing like anonymously paying for someone’s meal, helping a 3rd grader memorize multiplication facts, starting a prison ministry, organizing weekly prayer walks of your neighborhood, or starting a church in your living room.
Whatever…lay the reasons not to and the results before the Lord.
You and your community just start, act, launch, go, jump, begin, commence, create, inaugurate, originate, establish, break ground, initiate, embark on, get after it, plunge into, move, pursue, and go get em!