On Loving Where We Live
This summer CrossRoads is pushing out “Love where you live”. This is meant to encourage people to be intentional in getting to know our neighbours and to open our eyes to see what God is doing in our neighbourhoods, to have those one minute longer conversations. It is a great idea and sounded like not too difficult a task ……until some of the opportunities actually presented themselves. It has been challenging at times and afterwards when I have reflected on some of the exchanges I have had with my neighbors I realize I could have done better. Ummm……well yes there have been situations I could have done quite a bit better. I wonder what God must think as he observes me, and us as his church as we stumble through these attempts to love others and bring Him into conversations. Does He get frustrated with me? Does God do the palm to the forehead thing, shake his head and wonder when I am going to get this right? Aren’t we, God’s people the church supposed to be God’s answer for the world? The hope of Red Deer? That is a scary thought! Right now the world appears to be a very dark and messed up place. The news this week has not held many things to smile about globally, in our own province and in our city. And to think that God is wanting to use us to bring change and hope in the middle of this?
This came across my news feed the other day. And while I don’t believe shutting ourselves off from what is happening in the world is the answer it does bring us back to the main point – God’s directive to love our neighbor. If we become paralyzed or overwhelmed by all that is not right in the world we can then deem hopeless even the simple opportunities that present themselves in our day to day and then nothing is going to change.
I recently came across the book The Externally Focused Quest by Eric Swanson and Rick Rusaw which addressed some of my wonderings about loving my neighbours and how God is using us the church to accomplish his purposes just as He has done down through the ages.
“In the early centuries of the church, Christ’s followers, through their compassion and kindness, served the people around them, resulting in an estimated 40 percent growth per decade of the early church. Research on the expansion of the early church pieces together a remarkable picture of the early Christians’ involvement with the poor, orphans, widows, the sick, mineworkers, prisoners, slaves, and travelers. The new language on the lips of Christians . . . was the language of love. But it was more than a language; it was a thing of power and action: This was a ‘social gospel’ in the very best sense of the word and was practiced not to lure outsiders to the church but simply as a natural expression of faith in Christ. Is this the kind of impact the church is experiencing today? A pastor at Rolling Hills Community Church in Tualatin, Oregon, commented, “Service has always been the DNA of Christianity, but for most people, it is a recessive gene in the gene pool.”
Ephesians 2:8–9 tells us how we are saved—by grace through faith in Christ. It tells us why God saved us—to do the good works that he prepared in advance for us to do. Every person who has experienced Ephesians 2:8–9 (that is, everyone who has been saved by grace through faith) should, by definition, also be experiencing Ephesians 2:10—the good works God has prepared for him or her to do! We not only have a God-shaped vacuum in our lives but also a purpose-shaped vacuum. That God has prepared these good works beforehand implies that these good works are ours to discover, not invent.
A worthy goal would be for everyone who is a Christ follower to be living out the good works God has created us to do. God has designed us to be his hands, feet, and voice in our world.
I have realized that I don’t have to convince people that “things aren’t the way they are supposed to be”—that something is broken. N. T. Wright, in his book Simply Christian, refers to this awareness as echoes of the voice of God that remind every person that something is broken and flawed, that things are not the way God created them to be. The four echoes are the longing for justice, the quest for spirituality, the hunger for relationships, and the delight in beauty. Our neighbours may not know the theology, but they do know that all of creation is groaning as it awaits redemption even if they don’t have the same language we do to express it. Rather than writing this very large segment of society off as secularists, liberals, environmentalists, or the like, why not use this common awareness of brokenness to connect them to the larger story? We tell a better story by modeling a better story. The acts of mercy depicted in Matthew 25:31–46 (feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, comforting the sick, and visiting the prisoner) are what Jesus wants his church to be doing in the world and something for which we will need to give an account.
Do you know that most people would rather see a sermon than hear a sermon? No disrespect to Pastor Dan intended but it is highly likely that many people in our neighbourhoods will see us living out our lives and hearing our voices in conversation before walking through the doors of a church to listen to a pastor. How is our preaching coming along?
A big part of my role here is to provide you with information and opportunities to engage in our community, to be a sermon, to love where you live. At CrossRoads we partner with agencies in our city not because we necessarily share the same theology but because we care about the same things. That means you get to be a sermon to those people within those agencies as well as the people they will connect you with. Our partner agencies give you the opportunity to love where you live.
It has also been my experience that serving in the community can not only present opportunities with the people I serve or serve alongside with but also with others, like my neighbours. When I tell my neighbours about some of the ways I am involved in serving in my community it creates curiosity and can lead to other questions and discussion. They want to know how I got involved and why.
You can create a conversation when they ask you how your week was and you say “It was great! ‘I served alongside some other people from my church painting the ramp at the Youth and Volunteer Centre’, or “I met with a little person at a local elementary school to encourage them in their reading, or “I spent the afternoon at Womens Outreach helping kids pick out shoes for school”. God can do things in a conversation when your neighbours ask more about why you serve.
Here are a few ideas of how you can Love where you live this summer and into the fall. You can meet some new people in our community, agencies that we partner with, and have some great conversation starters with your neighbours.
Love in the Laces
July 24 through August 14 we are collecting shoes for kids in our community in conjunction with our local partner Womens Outreach Tools for School program. These shoes will go to children and youth whose families are experiencing financial difficulty and/or domestic distress. You can pick out shoes for children and drop them off at the church with a note of encouragement or you can sign up to meet kids at Womens Outreach and help them select their shoes Tuesday through Thursday afternoons July 26 through the month of August. Stop by the table in Ministry Lane on Sundays for more information or email Loveinthelaces@gmail.com to schedule a time at the collection table or at The Outreach Centre. For other ways you can get involved at Womens Outreach please feel free to contact myself.
There are a few dates in August that The Mustard Seed has asked if CrossRoads could fill for meal preparation, serving and cleanup. This would also allow for some interaction with the guests that are eating there that night. This would be a great serve opportunity for your small group. Contact myself or JessicaDraper@theseed.ca
In School Support
Summer goes by quickly and as September arrives we will once again have the privilege of serving in one of our north end schools. There are children who have greatly benefited from the time that was spent with them last year and you are invited to be a part of this God story that is unfolding. There are opportunities to spend time with a child who needs some extra reading support. You can listen, read together, take turns reading and be an encourager and share the love of books with a child. Adults and older teens are also needed for one on one mentoring during school hours. Have fun together, spend time learning new things, play sports – there are lots of possibilities and the impact on a young person’s life is huge.
Do you like to spend time in the kitchen? We will be running an afterschool cooking club every other week starting in the fall. We are keeping it simple and emphasizing the time spent together with students. You don’t need to be an expert chef but you need to want to have some fun. Short or long term time commitments can work with this group.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is looking for adults to spend one hour a week with children and youth. At the end of June there were 61 young people on the wait list and 50 of those were boys. You don’t need to be a superstar to be a mentor. You will be matched to a young person who shares the same interests as you do and is needing someone to spend time with them. Mentoring has been shown to make such a difference in the lives of kids – not just for the time they are mentored but for the rest of their lives. You may contact BBBS directly at www.bbbsreddeer.ca or contact me for further information and resources on mentoring.
Our Pregnancy Care Centre is looking for men and women to join with them in their ministry. They provide excellent training on becoming a client advocate or a male mentor. For those impacted by an unplanned pregnancy this agency is a safe, non judgmental place to make decisions and receive support. You can find out more at www.pregnancycare.ca or contact myself if you would like to walk alongside a woman or man in a mentoring role.
God has placed us here to be light that pushes back darkness. To give and speak hope. To be the church as he intended us to be. To love where we live.