Out of the Grandstands and Into the Game
by Laurie Whitaker
It was a few weeks ago when a woman approached me after a Sunday service to ask about what was happening in the area of Local Initiatives. I explained about our partners and the work that they do in our community. I told her about our Single Moms group that is growing and blessing me. I told her of the needs that our partner agencies have. Just before she turned to walk away she squeezed my hand and said, “Thank you for all you do in the community.”
I know she meant well and was wanting to be an encouragement to me, but in fact those words are more of a discouragement. Local Initiatives is not about what I am doing, but what we all could be doing. It made me think of a sports stadium with a whole lot of people sitting in the grandstands watching a few others maneuver around on the field engaged in the game. Some people have paid a lot of money for front row seats to get a good view of the action, and some are farther removed but are still interested in watching the event. I felt like I was one of the players and this woman was checking in and encouraging me on a good pass or catch I had just performed. Grandstand people can cheer, they can boo, they can commentate, but that is as far as the participation in the actual game goes. It’s not in their control what happens on the ground – it’s all up to the ones on the field.
What’s wrong with that picture? I am so glad you asked! The short answer would be that God wants you involved in the game — He wants all of us involved. The experience of laying out some cash to watch a game and hope for the best is no comparison to being involved in training, strategizing and then actually carrying the ball. No comparison whatsoever. God calls us to be out on the field. It’s when we are out on the field and part of the action, the nitty-gritty of getting our hands and hearts involved, that we can be conformed to the image of Christ and involved in the transformation and redeeming of lives.
God calls on us to invest of ourselves in the issues in our community and world, not just our money or our well wishes. While our finances are a part of us, and when we invest of ourselves that does sometimes include our money, but we can easily start to use money instead of “us.” When we do this we do not allow God to work a change in us by placing us in relationship with others.
The story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 is a great example. When the Samaritan saw the injured man he felt compassion on him. We know he felt true compassion because of his actions … his “play on the field.” “He came to him, bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them.”
This cost the Samaritan his time, some resources and energy. He gave these because he saw a need and cared enough to get involved. What if the Samaritan saw the injured man and went up to him and gave him some money, laid down a large amount of cash right beside his bleeding body? Would that have demonstrated true compassion? Sure the injured man may have had financial need; he had just been robbed. But the giving of money would not have begun to minister to this man’s deepest need. The Samaritan then took the injured man to an inn giving more of his time and resources and paid someone else who was well-equipped to care for the injured man. His goal was to see this injured man to restoration. Do you notice that the Samaritan did not give any money to the injured man? There are times when compassion involves the giving of our finances, but many more situations where it involves the giving of ourselves and our time.
God wants us involved in ministering to others because it changes us as well as the persons we are reaching out to. Why is it so much easier for us to put an extra $50 in the offering bag than to spend an hour reading or playing sports with a child at one of our schools, or visiting with people at Loaves and Fishes, or spending an hour providing childcare here at the church? Why do we prefer to sit in the grandstand and watch what God is doing through others than get on the field ourselves?
Can I tell you about a few pressing needs lying before us?
* We have an ever-growing Single Moms Fellowship that meets once a month here at the church. Women are coming together, forming community, growing in their identity in Christ and becoming connected with resources within our church and wider community. Childcare is an integral part of the success of this group and when these women know that their child is safe and happy, receiving good care and attention they can fully engage in the learning and experience of the evening. Unfortunately childcare is proving to be a real challenge and we cannot continue without it. This challenge is a perfect way for a small group to show love and support to these Moms, an opportunity to step onto the field. Our meetings are set until the end of June and are Friday nights April 17, May 22 and June 19. We have a good number of boys who are at the age where they need to run around in the gym and having some men to spend time with them would fill a real need for many of these boys who do not have an adult male in their lives.
* Our partner Big Brothers and Big Sisters is looking for men, women and couples to spend one hour a week with a youth in our city. There is not one school in our community that does not need in-school mentors for students one hour a week during school hours. Mentoring is definitely not something accomplished from the grandstand. This is something that I personally have committed to doing this year and I have been matched with a little girl who I spend time with at her school. We have done crafts, made cookies, built a gingerbread house at Christmas, written out Valentines for her classmates and many other things. Some visits have been challenging for sure, but I am humbled every week when she first sees me and her eyes light up and she runs to meet me. One hour of my week that can produce so much in a child’s life — the chance to make a difference, speak affirmation and show God’s love.
* Our Pregnancy Care Centre needs women and men to get in the game as well. Becoming a client advocate or male mentor is being hands-on with someone in a very challenging situation, or perhaps just needing someone to talk to and walk with after a decision has been made. It may sound scary, but the centre provides excellent training and support. You are never left without someone else to guide you through whatever scenarios may come up. There are also other ways to get involved with the Pregnancy Care Centre with your time and yourself, especially with the housing project that is underway. I would also draw your attention to the first annual Canadian Association of Pregnancy Care Centre’s National Day of Prayer. Prayer is another way to actively support our local partners.
* Women’s Outreach is counting on us to come through this August with Love in the Laces, the giving of back to school shoes and also with the matching of shoes to the little feet that will be coming through their doors. This will be a busy time with lots of activity and we will need to be intentional in our brief contact with each young one who God places in our path. It will also allow us to send messages of hope and encouragement through the writing of our notes that go with the shoes.
I realize that many of you who read this are already involved in many good activities and relationships that are making a difference for the kingdom.God sees you and wants to continue working through you and in you. For some maybe this is time for you to get involved in a new or different way, to jump out onto the field. I would love to speak with you and help you find that place where you can best use the heart of compassion and skills that God wants to grow and use in you. Please feel free to email me at LaurieW@CrossRoadsChurch.ca