Guest Blogger: (Part 1) Working with people who are already in a community for the sake of the gospel
A few weeks ago, in response to my post “Why can’t we work together for the gospel?” Jonathan left a very intriguing comment. In the comment, he said that he is currently “living this out” in his neighborhood and has seen how easy it is to “drop money and personnel” into a context. But, it is much harder to live among the people in a community and trust God to work through them.
In response to that comment, I emailed Jonathan asking for more information about his situation. That email started a thread that was very helpful for me. I asked him if I could publish this as a “guest post,” and he agreed. I’ll publish our interaction as two posts, with the second part being published tomorrow…
Question (from Alan): I’d love to hear more about how you’re working with “locals”…
Answer (from Jonathan)
My wife and I joined a neighborhood church that’s been around for 10 years, but is a plant of an para church organization. We’ve been there five years and since 2009 have chosen, with a few others, to live in a neighborhood that is plagued with crime, drugs, poverty, and some prostitution. BUT we see God at work.
My frustration comes from the short termers. They help run a day camp, provide games to the neighborhood kids in the evening, as well as pay into the ministry. Two issues immediately arose. I’ve asked, “What would happen if these teams didn’t come?” Clearly, there’s the financial aspect, because the Church (sigh) is dependent on the outsider. Second, in my opinion, not very much local ministry is being raised up, as things are coordinated by a few locals, but all the money and personel leave after a time. Honestly, I look at it a little differently now that I LIVE with my neighbors. I’m not driving in or stopping by. Dealing with my neighbors is on the job training in ‘Loving my neighbor’.
Without complaining here’s the challenge: How do you give believers not from our community the cross cultural experience, without all the voyeurism or vertical relationship. I’m seeing these last few years that it’s one thing to organize a program for the poor than to live with and friend the poor. All the isms are very real when the person you’re serving is your friend.
I think to minister in some of these urban environments (ok all) we need more discipleship. One Sun morning I didn’t go to my local service, but walked around and prayed about 10:30AM. I saw what I saw everyday-Life. I counted five church services in session, but I still saw drunks staggering, people loitering, not sure if I saw the dealing that morning, but for everyone not going to a service-life as usual. It tells me, “We need a different approach to engage people physically where they are.” My wife has a vision of living water flowing out of our neighborhood. My vision is that someone will call 911 not because a crime is committed, but because there are too many people assembling praising God.
Question: Your situation does sound similar to many situations related to “foreign missionaries.” You said that the short termers “pay into the ministry.” What is this money used for? Why do you think “not very much local ministry is being raised up”? What do you think is causing that?
Answer: Coming tomorrow…