Today David and I had the opportunity to attend a seminar on missional living in Portland. The seminar was generally inspiring - many pastors and young adults with a heart for transforming their community and taking a new approach of ministering to others. The main point of the meeting (as I understood) was that mutual relationships are essential to effective ministry as well as paying attention to the many community assets that always exist.
I enjoyed hearing people's hearts for ministry and building relationships with their neighborhoods and making a positive impact for the kingdom, but I felt something was amiss. If this was a secular meeting, I would say it was amazing and fully covered every base possible. However, given that this was a meeting of Christians looking to minister to the community, I felt the most basic element was somehow lost.
Christians who have been transformed and impacted by Christ's redeeming love have something that no secular organization or person can create or develop. No theory or structure can transform a life as much as the beautiful and powerful love of Christ.
It seems so simple, we sung about it at Sunday school all our life, maybe even took it forgranted most of our lives - but if we think about it - as Christians, the only way we are able to pour out our energies and love on each other and have passion for justice and relationship is because of the love that Christ put in our hearts. Apart from Christ, we are nothing, and our energies and passions would reveal it.
This simple truth may be easily forgotten, but if one is truly seeking to minister, they will soon realize that they NEED to draw strength from the Lord. Apart from Christ, our own minds and bodies will fail - especially if we are developing relationships with people.
I believe every individual was created by God in His image and has a lot to offer this world, believer or not. I believe it is absolutely necessary to build relationships with those around us, regardless of their beliefs or attitudes - it is our calling to love, serve, and share God's love. How this looks - of course depends on the context, but as Christians seeking to live out the Kingdom, we must remember where our direction, life, and love comes from. We must remember what separates us from the world and why we are doing what we are doing.
This is definitely something that I have and will continue to ponder as we continue the ministry God has called us to at Barberry.