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Monday
Nov082010

Deromanticizing outreach

As I read the Bible, and especially the book of Acts, I am breath-taken by what I read. As much as the gospels mean to me, the book of Acts means more. Although I cannot imagine living the Christian life without seeing how Jesus lived it in the gospels (and how Jesus was it in the gospels), in Acts I get to see how the indwelling Christ works through "unschooled, ordinary men" (Acts 4:13).

But therein lies the problem.

I struggle with how radically different, in some ways, our lives are from what I see in Acts. Our churches are a joke. They typically bear no resemblance to what is in Acts...not even in the slightest. Hence my desire to seek out churchlife as God desires it and not as men have altered it (this is an on-going quest and I do not claim I have arrived...in fact, that is part of the point of this post).

But it's not about seeing how churchlife was in the book of Acts and trying to copy it. It's about seeing how these women and men lived by the life of Jesus and then us living by the same life today. 

But if we're doing that, then why does it look so different?

This especially strikes me in the handful of attempts our church has made to help "the least of these" live with Jesus as their source.

Time after time, I think we have done our best to love the least with God's own heart and His own leading, but I cannot say I have seen radical change. I can say to myself, "Well, we cannot force them...it has to be by their choice," but that doesn't seem to be so much a problem in Acts?

These are just questions. I have no answers. Don't get me wrong, I have seen lives changed. What started with a handful of families in our church is now closer to 40 adults and 30 kids, and there is no doubt that saints have chosen to engage this community because it helps them know the love of God in Jesus.

But when we serve the least of these, the ones God seems to have a precious place in His heart for, the results are strikingly sad.

I was confronted with this recently, as I saw Amanda minister to someone she has loved for quite some time, and I could not muster any answer when Amanda asked me why the result is always the same.

The one thing God has shown me in all this is that loving others is about us as much as it is about them.

That sounds counterintuitive, but I really believe that God calls us to love others so that we are transformed...so that we know what it means to join with God in His purpose. Sometimes, I think wanting a radical change is selfish. I often feel my heart say, "Okay, Lord, I will love this person, as long as you give me some incredible story that I can brag about for years." 

But what if there is no great story? What if, in the end, all you see is failure? And what if that, somehow, is part of God's plan too?

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Reader Comments (2)

I appreciate this topic. The difference between the church we are called to be and the church we are is devastating. A burden for every Christian to bear until we are the spotless bride.

I would like to respond to the idea that the least of these remain unchanged.

When we pray for a cancer patient, and the cancer continues ravaging the body, we do not regret the prayers spoken or the hours spent waiting at our loved one's bedside. We recognize that part of the ministry is just being present in the pain. Whether you are healed or not, I will sit with you, read to you, bring life to you. I do not condone your cancer. I do not support your cancer, but I will sit with you while you fight.

Why don't we apply this same steadfastness to addictions? Habitual sin? Broken relationships?

I do not support your financial decisions. I won't cosign a loan for you. But I will sit with you and be present in your stress. As your bad habits continue to eat away at your life, I will be here - a constant reminder of the Truth. Of what is possible. Of freedom.

I will not force you to change. I will not aid you in your errant ways. In fact I will recognize myself in you. I will see my own wandering soul in your choices. And then. And THEN. I will see the hope. I changed and am constantly changing. You are too.

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMandy

Thanks for this comment, Mandy. This comment itself makes the post worth it. There is so much here to take in.

November 8, 2010 | Registered CommenterLiving with Freaks

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