there is beauty in those things we see as feeble and weak. are we willing to be weak in order to find beauty or will we continue to hide behind false pretenses, power, control and pretend as if we are greater than life itself?
I went through and typed out all those book this year that have been most influential in my schooling.
It was good for me to do this because I actually had the opportunity to realize that I did learn something this year!
Brown, Warren; Murphy, Nancy; Malony, H. Newton eds
Whatever Happended to the Soul: Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human nature
A collections of Essays put together by Fullers Main Philosopher Nancey Murphy of the possibility of human beings having no soul and its implications upon Christianity. She Who is an Anabaptist believer herself believes that there is no immaterial soul and seeks to verify her beliefs through Science and theology.
Influence on my thinking*** (out of 5)
Reasoning and Rhetoric in Religion
An easily accessible book covering the structure of arguments to Alasdair MacIntyres account of how to evaluate traditions using Philosophy and the Methods from the field of science.
Journey Inward Journey Outward 3rd Ed
A biography of the Church of the Savior in the late 60s a wonderful community church that reaches out to the urban poor in downtown DC.
King, Martin Luther
Strength to Love
A Collection of Luthers Sermons you could almost hear him speaking these powerful messages.
(I thought it was amazing, but I agreed pretty much with what he was saying, and much of it wasnt that new)
The Journal and Major Essays of John Woolman
A great read for any mystic and especially for those who are interested in how the Abolition got started. John Woolmans Piety is challenging to anyones faith.
A Living Faith, A Historical and Comparative Study of Quaker Belief
A brief history and summary of Quaker Beliefs from the most liberal to the most conservative evangelicals. One of the best parts of this book is when Cooper talks about Christ as Prophet, Priest and King, and how Christ as prophet was one of the most important parts of early Quaker Christology, a part that is lost in much of evangelical Christianity today.
Apology for True Christian Divinity
The founding theology for Quakerism, written 30 years after the movement was started. It is as systematic a theology as the Quakers had and it is quite frankly an amazing work of theology. I found myself saying time and time again why have I never heard any of this before???? Probably the single most important book to me this school year.
Barbour, Hugh and Frost, J.
A great history of Quakerism in America, pretty critical and covers fairly the different parts of the movement.
How to Live Your Life
Probably the best book ever written by the one true Christian human alive.
Rich Christians in An Age of Hunger
A very powerful, provocative and moving account of the Americas (and its church) neglect of the poor.
The Black Christ
A book about Christ and how he relates to African American Spirituality written from a Feminist African American Woman. A great a short read to get your feet wet in Black Theology.
Fundamentalism and American Culture
A critical and well put together history of the Fundamentalist movement and its negative effects on the American church. Probably the second most important book I read this school year. It helped me understand much of my church background and the ideologies that fueled it.
The Careless Society and its Counterfeits
How is it that there are so many service jobs now? With so few product producing jobs available in this country? J. McKnight asks this question and many others as he sets for the idea that much of Americas economy is fueled by service jobs that were created to fulfilled false needs in the society. He says that what people need is true community (and he offers great ideas as to what this is) and not more therapists, doctors, teachers, and rescue mission workers etc.
African American Ethics
A great ethics book looking at many important issues for African Americans and how these issues are being handled by the larger society. It also has some great Black Theology in it.
We have been packing for about two weeks, and we have
already taken many things to the other apartment.
Last week emily went everyday i think just to take
even a couple things so that we would have less to
move when the day came. it is here. I am picking up
a uhaul today – i will probably spend about $80 on it.
we were considering taking multiple trips with vans
and small trucks but decided that one trip with the
uhaul would be less stressful and less of a commitment
for our friends.
We have been thinking about, praying for and talking
about moving to Glendale for about 4 months now. and
when it comes down to it i am nervous about the move.
What if we aren’t supposed to go there, what if we
can’t really afford the rent, what if we have a really
hard time maintaining our friendships or making new
ones, what if young-life falls through…
“You start to trust the things that deeper comfort
brings..safety abounds, safety abounds..” -Pedro
Lord please helps us to find the deeper comfort.
and Emily and I all helping.
We should be good to go.
We went to Jessie’s birthday yesterday, and met many
of her friends, and then those who she rents from DAVE
and MEREDITH. they are pretty hip people with fun
personalities. they own their own home so of course
we were jealous and felt like kids because we haven’t
bought a place yet. This is one main reason i want to
be back home. right now we could be living in a 3 or
4 bedroom house. anyways hanging out with these kats
makes me want to continue to pursue art and music. I
know what i have some ability and when i get around
people who are artsy it makes me want to be amazing
-that is what i am not. I often wonder how much my
art should be apart of my life, because i am not
naturally gifted like some i know – i wonder if i am
chasing after hollow dreams.
“I am a simple, and I sing a simple song…”
I found myself entering a conversation on urban
ministry with a friend who is a young-life staff person.
I think i have four
things you don’t want me talk about, Urban ministry,
Quakers, Dylan and Macs. I have a hard time shutting
up about any of that stuff. anyways she pretty much
said that for her Urban ministry is no different than
any other kind of ministry and she gets really annoyed
with people who “are like i am all about urban
ministry, that is where it is at…” I told her i
don’t like people that make one thing their cause –
because people get more caught up being sold out to
their cause and can often miss the point of the
Gospel. I know plenty that have done this for urban
ministry, suburban ministry, homosexual and abortion
issues etc. I don’t want to be one of those people
that have a cause, except that my cause be to proclaim
the kingdom of God.
BUT…(knew it was coming)…i can’t help but read the
prophets in the OT and read the whole freaking! Gospel
(especially the very urban-underdog focus book of
Luke) and see that Jesus speaks time and time again
about serving the poor, and the rejects of society,
those who have been forgotten by the suburban church,
those who have been hated by the government. I am not
trying to read into the Gospel here, i got this from
reading the Gospels honestly.
I just read Matthew 4:23 – where it talks about Jesus
“proclaiming the kingdom of God” and he was healing
all the sick around him. It was interesting to find
that both of these events were recorded as taking
place in the same verse, and if i remember correctly
it was in the same sentence! so what do i mean to say
about this? Well the sick and crippled have always
been the poor and outcasts of society, there is little
argument otherwise and the fact that proclaiming the
kingdom of God (the verbal event) is coupled with the
healing of people (the physical event). For Christ to
speak of the kingdom of God (the good news) was to
make things right for those who have been brought low
by the social, cultural and political systems of the
day. This isn’t something that is understood by the
typical evangelical church today (suburban or
otherwise). Most people equate proclaiming the
kingdom of God with preaching the Gospel and they
couple that with “getting people saved.” The ideology
that fuels this thinking is, “I believe that Christ
has called me to get people saved, i get them saved by
telling them to believe in Jesus and get out of sin,
when they do that their lives are now whole. Now I
must move on to the next person to get them saved, and
so on.” There is something wrong with this
picture…it is that Christ never got people saved and
then ditched them, actually it is if anything flip
flopped, Christ fixed their social situation, gave
them hope by healing them, feeding them, or
confronting the unjust systems that took advantage of
the weak. The point isn’t to say that christ never
tried to bring people into a relationship with God,
because he did do that, the point is that he was
concerned about the whole individual, and how to make
it right for each person – one at a time. There are
whole people, hearing about how to get saved but left
to sleep on the cold streets, there are people who are
hearing “Jesus Saves” but then they go home to an
abusive single mother who has no food or money and
screams at her kids out of desperation and fear.
There are mothers who are forced to live in places
like Skid Row in Downtown LA, with four kids. There
are divorced familes, that are broken, angry and tired
of the fighting but have no one who is willing to just
listen to their problems, there are people who preach
at them about right and wrong choices, but no
Christ-loving friends who shut-up and just listen.
There are children who have fathers who kill
themselves because they lost all hope, those kids
wonder where the “Jesus Saves” church was at for the
past 10 years while their father died from depression
– no one to love – no one to listen to the rejects.
those same kids now have no father, they know he gave
up because he had no hope, and they only here the
words of “Jesus Saves” while they see no real physical
people who are willing to get involved in their lives,
who are willing to get dirty.
well this is why I believe that ministry to the poor,
rejected and oppressed is at the base of Christianity,
because just like everything else our Lord did, it is
counter intuitive, it is difficult, costly and frankly
it is really unappealing to my american wallet and LA
Good thing Christ never called us to those things.
Good thing for me that i was born in a struggling
middle class family – that was better than those
damned families in Skid Row. God must have just
decided that it should be that way. I should consider
myself lucky and do whatever i can to keep my family
from ending up down there, oh heavens what could be
worse than living on the streets??!!
May we be like you Lord Jesus – concerned with the
whole person – healing those who you loved and sought
Matt. 4:23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in
their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the
kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness
among the people.
Luke 12:15 And he said to them, ÂTake care! Be on your
guard against all kinds of greed; for oneÂs life does
not consist in the abundance of possessions.Â???
Luke 12:33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make
purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an
unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes
near and no moth destroys.
Luke 12:34 For where your treasure is, there your
heart will be also.
Unfortunately – those who speak with such passion
often get written of as too extreme, this is not my
intention, and those of you who know me hopefully you
can testify to my heart. But at the same time Jesus
was written off as too extreme – so if we are like our
Lord I hope we are too extreme.
I found, at least for myself, one of the best places to spend a fourth of July Church service at – an African-American Church located in the middle of the hopeless and Notorious Skid Row of Los Angeles. Emily and I went to Central City Community Church of the Nazarene (CCCN) this Sunday and experienced a side of church (and patriotism) that was good for the soul and challenged a white-man’s pride.
I spent this past week with my Urban Mission Models class meeting at CCCN and was intrigued by their grassroots” approach to the hopelessness within Skid Row. I decided to call it hopelessness as opposed to poverty or homelessness because that is exactly what it is; Skid Row is comprised of Human Souls that have lost all hope. This Church seeks to have small groups of people that it ministers to; attempting to build transforming relationships with each person they come across. This leads them to shutting their doors on some people, but it also means that they are able to be more deeply involved with those they are ministering among. Their style of ministry got my attention and so my wife and I went to visit.
We found this church with its doors wide open, people flowing in and out of the doors, some sitting outside against the walls, showing that the location of this church is very important to their ministry. The predominately black church, was filled with many people, some of other colors, some wearing dress clothes, suits, some wearing jeans and head bands; it was truly a band of misfits which reminded me of Gideon’s army.
There were two significant things I walked away with yesterday: the first was that it is important to hear counter-narratives of our country and Christian faith and the second is that building community must be an intentional act within the church for any community to take place.
First the pastor, Jeff Thomas, gave a powerful message on Dependent Independence,” the main point of his message revolved around the theme that America within the Declaration of Independence wanted freedom from its oppressor, England, while at the same time oppressed those that maintain the economy of the country – those enslaved by those writing against oppression. This was much more my kind of Fourth of July service, no USA worship, no uncritical talk of the sheer amazingness of America; rather it was great to hear another side to the “the truth.” I was glad to hear, the other side of the story.” The story not often talked about in those ways, especially not most white churches today.
I can’t help but think of the deaths of the Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans when it comes to America’s Independence, but this is not a popular view-point, and many people push it off as – can’t we move past that yet? I thought about this also, but then I realized something, the African American churches continue to talk about this because the white churches have not collectively owned up to this or talked about it. When one group (or person) tries to persuade the mass population that group or person, often must tug hard the other direction in hopes of raising awareness, this is one reason why I think the black church continues to rehash these issues.
Secondly, history must be retold in hopes of preventing repeats and learning from past failures. Unfortunately America is in the business of oppression, our economy is fueled by sweatshop labors in and outside this country, it is powered by service oriented governmental jobs that create needs in order to create jobs (one example of this is the compartmentalization of much of the educational system – there are many more specialists in the field than every before yet the quality of education continues to drop), and it is powered by resources that we must take from other countries. Bush’s war on terrorism, motivated for a control over the middle east’s oil resources is yet another form of America oppressing others. I realize that some will not agree with this view, some will argue for humanitarian reasons that Hussein had to be removed – I don’t doubt that there was awful cruelties taking place in that country, but what we have done over the last year with our bombs, and warfare machines has created much more destruction and brought the end to many more lives than what Hussein was doing. If we were motivated to rescue the people from his tyranny, why was the war sold as a quest to end terrorism, and why has it turned out to be all about gaining control of Iraq’s oil resources?
These questions need to be asked, leaders need to be questioned, and I think the fourth of July is a perfect time to talk about what is freedom?” and how are we freeing or oppressing others? In our country and in the world?” The white evangelical church has for the most part turned a blind eye to the injustices in this country and world, they are not listening to the voices of the oppressed. The cries of the poor, urban and black churches continue to seep forth from the walls of injustice, calling those in power, those educated, those who have turned a blind eye to look up and notice – that our country is not yet land of the free,” it calls forth hoping to find a prophetic voice from which it can speak.
I am learning how to be more visible in my thinking, I want to be apart
of greater communities, thinking and storytelling.
Class Journal #3
June 30, 2004
Three topics arose today as we visited Skid Row, the interrelationships between Rich and poor, how to deal with the overwhelming problems of the city, and also what missions means to todays evangelicals. First we spent time discussing the appointment with a wealthy CEO that Jude did with other class at other times, and how it is important to meet with people like that because they are doing things for the poor, and it is important for us to be stay connected to the because we can become very separate, often times anti-rich, even to the point of leaving the rich feeling unwelcome. Bigotry toward the rich and those who live in wealthy areas can be feelings that arise within the poor and those who serve them, but if this happens then the cycle of bitterness and oppression is not broken and people are not freed from those sins. If the rich dont feel welcome in the poorer, urban churches then there is yet another segregation taking place. What a holistic-relational Christian community seeks to do is not only bring together multi-ethnic, multi-generational but also multi-economic peoples to the community. Problems do arise however because many rich dont want the poor meeting in their nice suburban churches on Sunday, and many rich dont feel welcomed in poorer churches because they are often times objectified for their money.
What is most important is that we continue to try and bring people together because the there are many things to be learned from each subset of culture. One person stated that, If we go to the rich we will lose the poor, but if we go to the poor we will also gain the rich.” This is because there are lessons to learn within those who are poor that are deeply rooted within the Biblical message and cries of the Spirit. These are some observations that those who are poor make that those who have money can learn from: People with money often get too caught up with their own image, and dont pay attention to anyone else; they are often times empty, searching for something they cant find; they are lonely; we are all the same deep down inside.
Christa spoke to us about prostitution in Thailand and what her and her husband are doing to help offer positive alternatives for the ladys there. Two things that struck me most here were the possibilities of creating jobs for these girls in ways that not only help the women but one that is also positive for the community.
Christas talk struck a chord with in me concerning foreign missions though. Looking through this very present experience of being in Skid Row and feeling the overwhelming needs of those hurting around me, I felt as though helping those in Thailand is a far off dream. I understand the role of foreign missions, but wonder how one can look through the problems of our own cities and into the problems of foreign cities. This is not meant to critic Christa and her husbands call but rather to ask how can I, as one who feels called to minister to those in my immediate community help those outside of it? What is my role in helping those hurting and objectified Thai women? I want them to be free from sexual oppression, I want to see them liberated from Buddhism, but is there a place for me to truly support foreign missions when I feel so strongly about rescuing those so close to home? One response the Spirit gave was, by educating those around me of the injustices in the world.” The Spirit showed me that though I am may be unable to support or serve those ladies in Thailand in any ongoing way, I may be able to educate and empower others do to so, even those who are poor and oppressed here in the States. It is possible by informing those around me of such injustices that some will find a way out of their own holes in the form of serving others who are in similar or worse situations.
Finally our visit to Mosaic felt left me with critical responses. In many ways I saw what Mosaic was saying as putting a new hat on an old form. Mosaic is a homogenous group of people seeking to grow (by spreading the Gospel) by reaching those who are like them, practically speaking, the majority are around the age of 24, middle-class, and single. It is a church still built on the foundation of evangelical tenants, where preaching is at the center of what is done, and worship is regularly understood to come through forms of music and art. They are basically a typical American protestant church that has hyped itself up enough to appeal to the young crowd, which is not in and of itself bad, but it is lacking in multi-generational, multi-ethnic, and multi-economic peoples. Further as a Quaker Christian, I find a church community that is built around a pastor/speaker, the Bible (or word) as foundation, and worship limited to acts of music and other art forms, to be lacking in the talk of the Light of Christ, the Priesthood of all believers and contemplative and sacramental lifestyle. I find these latter things to be at the heart of not only true postmodern” movements but also at the heart of church that are socially relevant and active, driven by the spirit of God in a given community.
June 28 2004
Urban Mission Models Class Journal #1
I was struck the very beginning of the class by one small statement read aloud and set the momentum for the whole day. This phrase was read from what I judged to be a clichéd filled poem called, an Urban Psalm 23. They never look in my eyes ” were the words spoken with ease and brevity, but struck me with the force of awakening clarity, as though be splashed with a bucket of cold water. These words uttered in prose, spoken through the mouths of many underprivileged, homeless and vagabonds grabbed me because it was not a week ago that I came to the realization, If I dont look at them or make eye contact, they dont beg for money from me.” Though I consider myself an advocate for the poor, I concluded that dropping a few coins into a battered Styrofoam cup would make little to no difference for my recipient of good works.
I have often said with the frustrations of irritation as well hopelessness, Dont they realize that if I gave money to every single person who asked of me I would be sitting right alongside them?” My less then Christ-like attitude has caused me to be paralyzed and unable to help those who are in need. The small voice of the homeless women I see on my way to my favorite coffee shop, quietly mumbles, They never look in my eyes ” In the process of seeking to be a wise steward” of my money I have neglected more base needs of humanity. Though I may not be able to always offer money to those who seek it, I can offer them the freedom and joy of being treated as a human in acknowledging their presence, a smile, an intentional look into their eyes, or a even a pleasant word or two. This morning devotion broke way in my heart and declared that I oppress other when I deny them the joy of being treated as a fully human and divinely-created being.
This morning devotion of treating people as people set the stage for the days themes such as Andy Bales importance of stories and advocacy, Jill Shooks Mobilizing, Organizing, and Theology of Location and Rudys redistribution, relocation, and reconciliation. Each place we were at brought up somewhat different, somewhat interrelated themes but all revolved coherently around a desire to give poor people the opportunity to become fully human, as exemplified in Christ.
The most impressive part about our time with Andy Bale was how much he was apart of the lives of those he serves. He told us of how recently he got in a lot of trouble with the Pasadena councilman because he and others from the church were feeding and giving drinks to the day laborers and another time where an angry neighbor pulled a gun on some day laborers and threatened to kill them for being by his house. Andy had to step up and call the chief police commissioner to request that the officer who handled the case actually follow the law and arrest the wealthy man who pulled the hand gun on the Mexicans. Finally the Officer returned and arrested the man, but it took the advocacy of a white pastor of a very rich church to make sure that the law was followed.
What stood out most about the day labor center was actually meeting the people, learning names and trying to talk with them across language barriers. I really enjoyed the little time I had with learning that even illegal immigrants are truly humans, with needs, feelings and fears just like the rest of us. By being there, their problems seemed much more relevant to me than before, all of a sudden I found myself really caring about day labor and immigration laws. The migrant workers become human to me in that small building, as we ate tamales together talking about the life we share.
Finally Rudy, the director at Harambee, impressed me the most. I was so impressed with him because unlike Andy and Jill at the other two centers, Rudy was not doing ministry for those around him, he was doing it with them. Rudy is so ingrained in the neighborhood where he has lived and practiced ministry for 17 years that the problems of the Harambee center and the people of the neighborhood were truly his own. Like he said, it is not as if he knew the community, he is the community. In becoming a part of the people he served he had a very clear testimony to his validating the humanity of those whose humanity is in question. Everything that happed today supported this ongoing theme, those who follow Christ seek to allow their fellow human being the opportunity to experience a fuller/truer humanity.
June 29, 2004
Class Journal #2
We arrived in Skid Row, LAs Homeless Containment” district this morning at about 9:00 am to find at least 10 people sleeping on the sidewalk. One person had a tent fixed to the fence and created somewhat of a small shelter about 7 feet long and 3 inches wide, with crates underneath the tent keeping certain parts of the tents from touching the ground. I looked at those who were awake and curiously looking at us, the 13 students from upper-class Pasadena, clean, toting backpacks and smiling down in one of the saddest parts of LA; I smiled, said hello and intentionally looked at those who were attentive, many smiled and said good morning, no of the ask for money or approached us in any threatening ways, it was human to human interaction. People really live this way, as many as 10,000 a night in Skid row sleep on the streets and/or are homeless. There are only 20,000 residents in this district, and with 50% on the streets every night skid row earns some scary reputations all across the country. I learned within the first 15 minuets of being there that people, real live people, live in Skid Row, Skid Row is only terrible because these people it has become a dumping ground for LA, in order to hide its homelessness. With laws that actually make homeless illegal, police pick up homeless people from around to financial district” and drop the off in the containment area. A place where no one wants to be, but unfortunately for those who dont want to be there and have little resources, they have little power in getting out.
The most impactful time we experienced today came from being with Tim and Grady at the Central City Community Church of the Nazarene. We learned about some of the poor politics of Downtown Los Angeles and the many struggles with finding housing for the homeless in the area. Many slum lords own hotels in the area and allow the poor of Skid Row to live for cheaper rent, in terrible conditions, many rooms do not have their own bathrooms and are often located next to prostitutes and drug dealers. One of the hardest things to deal with is finding sufficient housing for families. The hotels in the area that even allow families to stay in their facilities charge $800-1200 a month which most families in middle class can barely afford let alone those who are homeless and have no jobs. Many of the landlords play a game with the residents called the 28 day shuffle” that is they uproot the poor from their places of residence every 28 days and move them to different rooms or kick them out in order to keep them from sustaining any kind of renters rights” that the city allows occupants after 30 days stay in any apartment complex. I was glad to hear and learn from the stories that Tim and Grady told us, because it opened my eyes to the multi-layered problems that homeless people face within the system. Tim stated succinctly that, We can judge a society by the way it treats its most vulnerable.”
I felt that out of the three places we went today, CCCN, Exposition Park Nazarene and Faith in Christ Ministries that CCCN was the most important for me to see because they challenged me most directly with the importance of relating to those in the city as real people, as individuals with stories, hurts, pains, hopes and dreams. They interact with those of Skid Row on a one-to-one basis, they dont have lines of people waiting for free giveaways each morning, in fact they dont have lines at all. They answer the problem of there are so many people that need help and so few laborers to do it by doing just the opposite that one may expect. Instead of doing like many churches and rescues missions, they do not line people up like cattle and throw food and clothing their way, rather they seek to relate to people one at a time. They desire to really learn and know those who they are serving. One way to say it may be, that they are not ministering to but they are ministering with those around them. In other words, they see themselves as part of on going story in skid row, they see themselves as learning and being impacted by those who live their just as much as they seek to help them. This is why Grady said that there are only 40-50 kids in their program at a time, because that is all they can handle, that is the maximum amount of kids that they can get to really and truly know.
It seems that his type of city ministry, the relation type, works best, because out of all the programs and ministries we have experienced thus far CCCN is the one that has the most amount of people remaining apart of the ministry in leadership roles, they have many kids in their high school internship programs, their worship band is filled with residence of Skid Row and there are many other examples of them empowering those they are serving to be apart of helping others, and ultimately fulfilling Gods call in their own lives. This empowering has also lead to many success stories of those who have been able to get back on their feet and become integrated back into mainstream society.
July 1, 2004
Today, I began to have that camp feeling arriving with everyone around 9:15, groggy, people feeling more comfortable, and more personal with one another. Today was a day to think about getting personal with the city. Two things stand out our talks about the shift from parish ministry to commuter church and our chat with Willie from innerChange.
While at CCCN we talked about the churchs shift from being a parish style ministry to a commuter or demographic style church (that is a church where people drive from any length away and feel no desire to be apart of the actual neighborhood of the church). There were some who stated that the commuter style of church is now acceptable and in some ways unavoidable whereas other said that some combination of both is the best. I understand that to have a church only made up of the community may be somewhat exclusive and thus we should never deny others the participation of being apart of our faith communities but I do see something wrong with passively accepting commuter style churches.
I think at the core values of the church, there should be a commitment to being a community church. If we as a church work within our community, invite those through means of relationships, and serve within our community a church will most likely tend to be made up of those people within a given area, we will be a parish style church. If we drive hours away from our home to work, focus on relationships outside our community, neglect service to our neighbors or focus solely on serving through foreign missions or ministries that are outside our community we will become a commuter church. I believe there is experiential and Biblical evidence for this. First the Christ did ministry where he could walk, now granted there were no cars, but the Scriptures are clear about his focused ministry to certain locations. It wasnt until the missionary efforts of the Apostles that the focus began to spread out.
Secondly, the reason why I believe that Christs model of doing ministry within a neighborhood or easily accessed place is because as we live in a community we know the story, character and trials of that community. We become close to or personally involved with the stories of those we interact with. A church that knows its surroundings is better equipped to not only serve it but first of all to love it. If I serve in a place where I can walk to or a place that I see regularly it is more regularly in mind my, more readily available in my prayers and more often on my heart. If I drive into a church from a long way out I see nothing of those things happening in the surrounding community, it is easier to shut out the concerns of the neighbors and thus it is more likely that I will have little to no concern in proclaiming the Kingdom of God to that place. This point of being personally involved is further clarified with what I learned from Willie today.
Willie, a one time Skid Row resident, now rents a room in a hotel and has a job. Willie was the first person we talked to this week that has actually been homeless, so his insight was in many ways the most valuable we have received. The main theme that I heard out of his story was, that the church needs to get personally involved in the lives of the poor. He (and Norma another lady who had a similar story of working out of poverty) spoke against those who believe that programs and projects serve to help the poor. He said that many Christians think that by going to Skid Row and feeding the poor once a month they are doing the will of God, or that through some social service project Christs will is being done. Willie explained from his own experience that all this does is objectify the poor; it makes them a project, a recipient of someones heavy conscience. The person becomes nothing more than a good deed.” The poor do not need more programs, nor do they need more salvation messages preached to them.
One person in the class said that the ultimate goal of God is to have his word spread to everyone, to a Quaker this is faulty thinking, God has already informed everyone of himself, what we as Christians are called to do is proclaim his Kingdom come this is done through serving others, advocating justice for others, sacramental living as well as teaching and sharing about the knowledge of Christ. I think this is where Evangelicals get lost, instead of viewing God salvation as working through various modes of obedient living, they cut out everything and go straight to preaching a message of salvation and repentance, as if to say, forget about every facet of your life and just believe!” We are hole beings, influenced by environment, economy, education, race, physical needs, emotional needs, etc and the Christ calls us to serve each of these areas not simply ignore them and focus solely on an altar call. It reminds me of the way the slaveholders treated their slaves, when they preached a salvation message to the slaves but did nothing to better any other part of their existence as if they were completely separate things. What real people need is real transforming relationships.
Willie said that what the poor need is not another Bible thumping preach, many know the Bible better than us in Seminary, many have accept Christ 50 or 60 times, what they need is a friend. Someone who loves them, some who seeks to be a positive and affirming voice to them who have suffered immense pains throughout life and who have lost all hope in this world. Willie said that the way he got off the streets, was not through some church program but through real people who meet with him on the streets, who desired to get to know him and who spoke life back into his soul to help him get on the right track. Now he is off the streets, following Christ and helping love others who are where he was. A church that is parish oriented has more opportunity to come face-to-face with real hurting people, people who need loved and given hope. Until the church comes face-to-face with the poor, there will be no personal investment and only programs and projects that will continue to do what they have always done, change little and perpetuate the disease of homelessness and poverty.
See earlier posts from this set