We have not planted a normal church, as expressed by today's psychology, and philosophy of church planting, here in the
US. We have come to understand that it is the poor that minister to us, conforming us to his image; forcing us out of our
selfishness. We have become their servants as Christ is manifest in them. (Matthew 25)
In church planting today, planning for success and financial stability (called good stewardship) builds into the venture
the idea of minimum risk, and risk management, monitored by a set of first line managers who insure capital investments pay
returns and dividends. Today's conventional wisdom is to learn all the methods (with an emphasis on "relevance"), create
a plan, recruit core team members (and their money), execute that plan by meeting in a "target location," manage marketing
techniques and branding strategies, recruit investors, grow, and create new managers who will... Well you get the idea.
Only, the early Church was completely at risk; completely vulnerable; walking through avenues of faith, because all is lost
if God doesn't show up. True to that calling, he also doesn't show up in the easiest places, and rarely shows up in comfortable
places, in spite of his easy yoke.
I am not throwing stones (maybe pebbles) and I'm sure that business ideas
do work for successful campaigns. However, we wanted first century Church. We began with a simple premise, that following
Jesus as closely as we could, would engage us in experiences that mirrored his and his first followers. We view his comment
about the poor "always being with [us]" as a command. After all, that is where I find him in the scriptures.
our church is completely immersed in the difficult problems of all of those suffering every trauma of societal, religious
and financial poverty. Normal for us is the schizophrenic, the mentally retarded, the addicted, the jobless, the homeless,
and the difficult. We are quite nomadic in our function, not having a building to support, but encountering very complex financial
difficulties, multiplied by all those we encounter.
Prisons, soup lines, tent communities, evictions, medical
visits, simplemindedness, are common for us. I am not complaining (today), and when I slow down enough to notice-looking for
Christ's presence, he isn't hard to find. We are friends with cops, legislators, councilmen, officials, and those who talk
to themselves (well, sometimes yell at themselves). We are in trouble most of the time. We find ourselves navigating
someone's trauma every day. We find ourselves hunted by high seated power, telling us we have no right to exist in their
neighborhoods, and we have peace and cooperative fellowship from most of the churches around us.
So today, I
am happy. This has been a very good ride. We received what the Lord has supplied and his mercies HAVE TO be new
every morning for us. I confess that I cannot return to a "normal" church existence, after walking so closely paralleled
to the disciples' experience. We truly find an affinity with what we read every week, because it is our experience.
There are days that we cannot go on. The burden and the needs are just too great. Like the psalmist we cry out.
When Christianity bigotry is leveled at our friends, instead of Christ's love, we are indignant. When the government wants
to deny safety to the most vulnerable around us and threaten us, we imperfectly sway back-and-forth from fear to faith, and
when the work is mundane (tiring and sleep deprived) staying awake to watch over the weak as they sleep in our shelter, we
feel close to Jesus.
Christ has answered our prayers, and broke our hearts.
I wish everyone could
experience walking with him. I don't know a better pilgrimage.