Now Christ Jesus has come to show us the kindness of God. Christ our Savior defeated death and brought us the good news. It shines like a light and offers life that never ends. 2 Timothy 1:10 (CEV)
Lately, I’ve been catching up on some episodes of one of my favorite shows. Call the Midwife is a British drama set in London’s East End in the early 1960’s. It follows a group of midwives as they work with working-class families (mostly women and children) during a time of immense social change. One of the reasons I love this show is that it’s created by, for and about the everyday lives of everyday women. Call the Midwife doesn’t just tell the stories of everyday women, it honors those stories. It shows life in all its phases–the good, bad, ugly and heartbreaking–yet does so in a way that is pure and beautiful.
I feel like, as Christians, we don’t always honor life. We don’t seek to see the beauty in others; especially those who live in the ugliness life can bring. We don’t want to see the desperation of poverty, the horror of abuse, the reality of racism and sexism, the brutality of addiction or even the presence of grief.
It’s easier to donate food, clothes and toys to organizations that employ other people to deal with all that. It’s easier to write a check and move on. It’s easier for me, anyway…maybe not you.
One of the things the Holy Spirit has been impressing on me is the absolute necessity of Christian community. I don’t mean community as in church fellowship dinners (although I do love a good church potluck). I mean Christians being in the community; Christians working together to give others hope, forgiveness, healing and peace in a manner that both honors and validates the beauty in every life.
I long to see the church as the center of a great social change; a change not born of judgement and condemnation, but a change born of the desire to see everyone within the community live the abundant life God has promised. But that means we have to be in the community. This involves building relationships, which involves getting to know people, which involves taking risks. For introverts like me, that can be a bit of a challenge.
It’s much more comfortable for me to dump a few boxes of macaroni and cheese into a box at church than strike up a conversation with the person behind me in the Aldi check-out line. And having a conversation with the person in the check-out line at Aldi is a lot easier than inviting that person to yoga. And inviting that person to yoga is a lot easier than saying, “Hey, what are you doing Sunday morning?”
But that’s how ministry works. Ministry is about relationships. Thriving churches are good at building relationships with all members of their respective communities. The thing about effective relationships is, they have to be based in mutuality.
Often, well-intended church folk look at doing ministry with a sort of savior complex. We, the great “Church People”, will come to you poor, misinformed downcast people of the world and “save” you.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never actually performed CPR or the Heimlich on a live human being. I’m not certified by the Red Cross to perform life-saving procedures. In short, I can’t save anybody. And, honestly, I’m not supposed to.
**On a side note, I do believe CPR and the Heimlich are important life skills that everyone should learn. And, if someone is in medical distress, seeking to save them is ok!**
Jesus didn’t commission his disciples to go into all the world and save. He knew that he (Jesus) was, is and will be the only Savior of the world. He commissioned his disciples to go and make more disciples. And do you know how they did that?
Yep…they built community relationships. The book of Acts records Paul working as a tentmaker alongside future members of the fledgling church he was starting. Paul was building tents because he knew that building tents would build relationships. (He also needed to provide his own income.)
If I could puzzle piece together an ideal church, it would include the following:
- free school for grades Pre-K-8 that specifically targets children falling behind in regular public school
- free medical clinic staffed by certified NP’s
- counseling center specializing in family, marriage and grief
- evening job skills classes
- youth center and mentoring program
- addiction recovery groups and services
- senior meal and fellowship programs
- music and art classes
- summer camps for kids