Why have we been avoiding the city? The church will go in and do projects, but then heads back out. The hole remained without any permanent gospel presence. After nineteen months living in the city, I can say that we have been missing out on opportunities.
While out with a crew for the street ministry team, I connected with a guy that has been investing his time and energy into street ministry for several years. As it turns out, he is a man I needed to know. Through his company, he’s able to provide various foods to different works. As it so happens, we need food for a couple upcoming block parties this summer. There was a need; God provides for the needs.
Reflecting on that discussion, as well as another regarding Celebrate Recovery, I thought through recent developments. We have a large complex that is willing to let us come in and love on their community. We live in a sizable complex of a much different makeup that has appreciated our determination to support and love on our community. We have a partnership with a local organization to engage the city and create volunteer opportunities. We have a network with local businesses that benefits residents and businesses alike, all while allowing us to open doors for new relationships. Plus, I look out my window and I see the workspace of tens-of-thousands of people, some believers that commute, many others that commute or live in the city. The city has an astonishing number of opportunities for us to work together too. We followed Jesus here and we keep seeing why.
I’m here, so I can certainly see first-hand the difficulties that have held up the church as a whole from actually being in the city itself. Yet again and again, I see opportunities for the church to be in and engaging the heart of the region. And I’m amazed that we’ve been so withdrawn. Of course, many have tried and died (metaphorically speaking), and many have started and then moved out.
Among those involved with starting churches, we talk about the idea of a runway. In areas where people are willing to engage the church, the time needed to start a new church is described as a short runway. Also, those who have a strong, broad team are thought of as requiring a short runway. Quick takeoff. Other areas or obstacles create a long runway. Much more is needed. The city is certainly a long runway for a number of reasons.
I am wrestling with some tough questions, which means there are not easy, readily-available answers. Yet I can see something clearly, which sticks with me as I write (if you can’t already tell): wherever Jesus is, there will be amazing experiences if we’ll join Him.
A story on that though…
The Uber-missionary Paul and his crew set out for a second trip to share the news of Jesus (which then resulted in churches starting). Yet this time around, when they went to his first area, God actually forbade them from sharing. They went on to the next place, but the same thing happened. What a confusing time that must have been!
During the night, Paul had a vision. Sounds trippy, but just as God had stopped Paul from going into certain areas, God was now leading Paul to a specific, new area: Europe. Or at least an area of northern Greece called Macedonia. So off they went and, as with his first journey, incredible and unforeseeable things took place. All of this is from Acts 16.
We can have a lot of reasonable, sensible ideas about how and where to serve God. Yet, Jesus is working in areas to which He calls us. In places, in lives, through circumstances. When He shows us where He is working, that is where we need to go and invest ourselves fully. Amazing things will take place, but not without difficulties. We could probably find easier, more comfortable places to be, but our only concern should be where Jesus is.