Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Little Less Conversation...

Posted by Jack

Please note: This is a sister-post, meaning it is meant to be read in conjunction with a previous blog posting. This is an extension of my earlier reflection entitled “Courting Mulberry Street.”

As you may have read in my previous comments, I have a healthy suspicion of “success.” When goals and projected outcomes are on the table, especially in terms of concrete data, I recognize the need for extreme caution and careful meditation. As such, we have shunned the compilation of any sort of 1 year, 5 year, or 10 year projected plan.

We already looked at the “heads” side of the coin; now let us examine the “tails” end of this thought process.

Yes, we must be willing to sacrifice our notions of streamlined efficiency for the sake of meaningful impact. But, we must also ask ourselves the tough questions:

What specific actions stand out as clear and definitive manifestations of my discipleship of Christ?

Can I name specific instances in which I have refused to conform to the patterns of this world?

How have I subverted the powers of darkness this week?

As Corrie Ten Boom said, what did I do today that only a Christian would do?

I am not saying that we have been sitting on our hands over here on Mulberry Street, doing nothing at all; but I am suddenly quite conscious of certain dangers.

I’ll call it laziness, but only for a lack of a better term. Don’t get me wrong; I have been working pretty hard. Truthfully though, I feel that I have allowed my own slow and measured steps to walk in place. I fear that much of my own vision-casting has been ONLY in the future tense, describing what this community will look like EVENTUALLY, when we have a strong, thriving group.

I previously shunned those questions of goals and results; but I became aware of the need to avoid the trap of complacency. We cannot substitute good intentions for actions; we cannot talk ourselves into waiting for “something big to happen” without actually taking steps toward that end today.

It is great to say that we have no rigid program to force upon our neighbors; it is unacceptable to say that we have no specific actions in mind.

It is great to say that we refuse to measure success in terms of numbers and data; it is unacceptable to have no stories of our intentional efforts.

It is great to have an overarching vision of a healthy and thriving community that will only be glimpsed decades from now; it is unacceptable to chart no forward motion.

It is great to say that we are here to love people and commune with them; it is unacceptable to have few friends outside our own cliques and like-minded peers.

I have two brief stories from this past week that have pushed me over the edge, so to speak, coaxing me back into specific areas of service.

First, one of my teens from the neighborhood suddenly resurfaced in my life. He has been in and out of juvenile detention facilities, and I had lost all contact with him. After he inexplicably began calling me again, I invited him out to dinner (an invitation which he followed up on repeatedly before we finally met).

It was like going back in time. This boy had sought me out, who 3 years earlier had cursed at me, stolen from me, and struck me repeatedly. We went to the restaurant where 2 years earlier his older brother took a steak knife and, in my presence, slit his wrist in the middle of dinner. I sat across from him remembering 1 year earlier when I had written him dozens of letters as he spent his summer in an intensive boot camp for juvenile delinquents. He reminded me of 6 months prior when an isolated phone call informed me that his probation had been terminated. And I looked at him that night as he told me, despite the end of his probation, that he’d been in some more fights, that he had been suspended, and that he’d been kicked out of two classes.

On the drive home, he reclined in my passenger seat, resting his head on his hands in total comfort, and he talked to me about school and his home life as if we’d never missed each other.

I had been on a mini-sabbatical of sorts, or a hiatus, from certain types of ministry work, telling myself that I was laying the foundation for Mulberry House by concentrating on detailed philosophies, abstract visions, and personal plans. I was dangerously close, I think, to exchanging this strategizing for actual interactions with my neighbors.

Too much verbose, not enough verb.

And so, I proudly and humbly, fearfully and confidently, announce that I am entering back into the tangled and messy world of mentoring. I’ve never stopped hanging out with troubled teens; but I have certainly been more guarded than I needed to be. The walls are coming down.

Second, this morning at about 7:30am, I was standing in a kitchen over on Plum Street eating breakfast sausages with Sim Bowen, president of Changing Lives Now Ministries (go figure!). We spoke at length about his plans to bring a church into this community. If there is something our neighborhood has in abundance, it is empty church buildings. Pastor Sim’s goal is to provide a church for this specific neighborhood, one that our friends will not have to commute out of town to find. He will utilize various mediums, crossing denominational lines in a bold and daring way, and putting traditions and preferences for worship aside to minister to the people around him in cultural expressions that resonate with them. He is not planting this church so that his church-going friends have another option; in fact, many of his church friends who expressed interest in switching to the new church have been asked to stay right where they are.

I don’t know what involvement, if any, I will have in this new church-plant right in my back yard, but I am encouraged, excited, and challenged to seek out ways to interact with my neighbors today, in the present, in the now.

I’ll try to make my point concisely: we must refuse to be slaves to our goals and concepts of success, but we must be servants. Success in not measured by what we have done, what we are doing, or what we will do. However, the vital step we cannot miss is constant inquiry, asking what HAVE we done, what ARE we doing, and what WILL we do? Otherwise we are just making a lot of noise.

1 comment:

Bri DuPree said...

amen brother