Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 


Monday
Nov222010

EVANGELIZING THE NEIGHBORHOOD

The Roman Catholic Church has an excellent doctrine: Every person in the parish (neighborhood) is a member of the parish (the congregation) -- even if the person takes no part in the life of the congregation. Even so, the parish/congregation has a responsibility to each neighbor. This doctrine, of course, is mostly a dead letter with most RC churches today, but I've seen a Lutheran congregation which lives the doctrine effectively.

In 1996 I attended a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Urban Ministry conference in Forest Park, Illinois. On Friday evening we visited a Lutheran congregation that takes seriously its share in the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:18-20) The church is in a neighborhood of South Chicago where residents live in attractive homes -- houses they can walk around. Each Friday evening, over half of the congregation gathers for a potluck dinner in the church basement. They pray, and the pastor gives them a brief coaching on evangelism or discipleship. Then they go by pairs into the neighborhood, to the blocks where they are assigned. Thus, each week they visit the same people. 

The pastor is a master at getting free tickets – to the White Sox, the circus, plays, concerts, movies, the opera, etc.  So, pairs from the church go door-to-door. They're able to greet most neighbors by name within a two-block radius. They have several openers they can use. For example:  "Tomorrow afternoon, we're going to Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. Would you and your family like to go with us?" Or, "Do you have a problem that we can pray about together?" Or, "Sister Doris had a miraculous healing yesterday. May we tell you about it?"

They operate on the assumption that each neighbor is a brother or sister in Christ.  It makes no difference whether they belong to another denomination, whether they're unbelievers, whether they're hostile. Most Fridays, returning pairs can report a salvation experience, an answered prayer from a prior week, or other good news.

However, this evangelism effort has only added a few families to the congregation. Most people -- if they receive Jesus in their lives for the first time -- just become more dedicated members of their own congregation. That's fine with this Lutheran congregation. The members know that their responsibility is doing their part in building the body of Christ. Jesus didn't say, "Go into all the world and make members for your denomination."

Additional thoughts:

If your congregation took responsibility for witnessing to all the residents in a two block radius -- with one or two-family homes -- that would include thirteen blocks -- including the one where the church is located. If there are twenty houses in each block, that would be a responsibility to relate to, love, spiritually nourish, witness to, disciple, and sometimes do works of mercy with some 150 families.

Works of mercy? Working with neighbors so they get a job, find an apartment, get needed schooling, get a loan, get healing, and lots more. It's no wonder our congregations mostly stay inside their walls and complain about how our country is self-destructing.

If each congregation in did its part in the Great Commission and witnessed in a two block radius, we Christians could revolutionize the world. Big If. 

If you can persuade your congregation, try starting with one or two blocks.


 

 

 

That's the kind of neighborhood ministry I was praying that we could develop in Over-the-Rhine--at both Prince of Peace and at Messiah House.  But, it didn't happen, because we were not mature enough in prayer or practice.

However, here's an example of how the LORD did work with us:  We were asking, should we grow?  Should we renovate the basement as a dorm for men?  Should we take in men who have just come out of prison?  Should we take in more couples?  If we could really grow, should we move to a large building, with big capital costs and large monthly expenses?

We sought the Lord’s will and prayed for courage to follow Him.

Results:  I had rewound my guts to finance and renovate the basement as a living area for four to six men.  But, in prayer together Brother Eddie received a word from the Lord about the issue:  “Rent apartments in the area.”  Thus, we learned a better solution:  Do cluster housing.  If all residents in apartments are employed, then the apartments finance themselves.

With cluster housing, we could all gather each morning for prayer and Bible study. We could eat together several times a week. We could do ministry together evenings and weekends. A beautiful solution from the Lord: No budget, no mortgage, no loan payments. But lots of praise and joy.

(Note:  Getting ex-cons into employment can be done. We had an excellent Christian employment service three blocks away, Jobs Plus. Two-thirds of the people they work with have felony records. In the past decade and a half, Jobs Plus has secured good jobs for some two-thousand neighbors.)

So how did our community work out? We separated. Brother Brandon and Brother Eddie left.  Brother Tom died on February 1, 2009.  So, Sister Carolyn and I were in an embarrassing situation – two unmarried people in the same house. She was on the third floor; I was on the second, but as professing Christians, we knew the optics were bad. She left later that spring. On July 1, 2010, I moved to Seattle.

Community together was a great experience and training in the LORD. I remember it fondly. I miss Brothers Eddie, Brandon and Tom, and Sister Carolyn. I miss them a lot. I look forward to living again with Jesus in Christian community.

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Quote: Jesus never promised it would be easy. He did promise to be with us.                                   -- Santa Teresa of Avila.

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Purpose of this blog is to compile a book for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright © 2011 by Jack Towe

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