In “Leading a Life with God” Daniel Wolpert does a good job comparing secular and church organizations. His conclusion is that churches look too much like secular organizations and not enough like churches. He uses Jesus as his model. He pointed out that if you look at Jesus’ ministry you will not find him forming boards, looking for buildings to occupy, or trying to invent the perfect ministry program that can then be duplicated at satellite campuses the world over. Jesus does ministry that fits the place, time, and needs of where he is. When he needed a food ministry he asked God to bless some fish and feed 5,000. When he needed to spread the word he sent his disciples out by twos with little, though specific instructions. When he wanted to preach a boat worked just as well as anywhere else for a pulpit. His focus was on God’s kingdom and not the sustaining of a program, name, or denomination.
This week Liz and I are at the Arkansas Annual Conference of the UM Church. The focus for this year is Imagination as the conference as a whole works on looking toward the future. This is a great focus, but I know from experience the resistance to change in the church and those that cannot look beyond what was, in order to see what can be. It prompts me to ask the question, what are we afraid of? Why do we have a commitment to buildings and programs? Is it that they are too comfortable and too much like home (Jesus was homeless by the way)? Do we create a “winning” program and think so much of ourselves that we think it should last forever? Does the appropriately sacred idea of an eternally faithful God make us think that nothing in the church itself should ever change?
My vision for our kids at Angel House is a world without fear, one based on faith and hope. As a church I cannot help but think that we would be better served, and more importantly would better serve God, if we could let go of what is comfortable and step out in faith that God will lead the way. To leap is scary, to go without a well supported business plan can create anxiety, and the idea of having to rely on others can make a type A, independent person like myself more than nervous. Just this past week I had to rely on others to house and transport me after my car was struck by lightning and I ended up stranded in Jackson. It was uncomfortable, but also allowed the connections of dependence that can so enrich our lives if we let them. Our lives should be lived openly and unafraid as we strive to create space for God’s kingdom without the worry of maintenance, but with only the hope of life.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:5As we have been speaking at different places since our return from Africa we often get a response of awe. People say, “I could never do that” or “It is amazing what you guys are doing.” To be honest this is usually the most awkward part of any presentation. Only because Liz and I see what we are doing as perfectly normal, at least as far as our faith in concerned. Now I don’t want to downplay the struggles of mission work or other people who have sacrificed much to do mission work. However, the only thing I see as special about what we do is that we wholeheartedly follow our calling or vocation in life, which granted not everyone does. It is really that simple though, not always easy, but yes, simple.
What has really impressed me during our time back though is the multiple ways in which the people we have encountered have been lights during our travels. Friends that have sat, listened, and provided good advice. Family and friends that have given us lodging, food, transportation, and been helpful in a dozen other ways as we live as nomads in the land of our birth. People have even gotten involved in helping us raise funds and awareness about Angel House. People may be amazed by what we do, but I am constantly amazed at the number of different ways the light can break through the darkness, where caring wins out over self-interest and interest over apathy. I am amazed and very thankful, because even a small project like Angel House needs a lot of people to make it work and the things Grassroots Ministry is looking into doing in the future will take even more involvement by different people and organizations. This is something that at times makes me very nervous, but after the last few weeks, I have a greater feeling assurance than ever before that the community of people who will really end up making the differences in the world have, are, and will step up, unafraid of the darkness because of their belief in the light.
Posted by Eric and Liz Soard at 5:55 PM