I’m back after a bit of vacation. It was good to get away in order to get some perspective and to do some reading. One bit of clarity I came to over the past weeks is the humbleness of our ministry here in Saint John. We are called to one simple thing “Christian community” and I must not lose focus on this one thing! I am realizing though that Kenny Rogers is right “it is hard to be humble” not only because of run-away ego but because our whole culture, in the world and in the church, rebels against the notion.
One of our core members, after a study and prayer time, suggested that “We really need to be doing something!” He told about Harvest House in Moncton opening a new centre and Out Flow in our city rapidly expanding the scope of their ministry. He urged that we open a rehab centre here in Saint John. It is hard to explain that we are doing something! Someone piped up and said we were doing something and cited our Community Garden and our monthly meals.
I think I need to be better at articulating our humble calling because while we do have a garden and do serve a crowd once a month, these are means not ends! Our calling is to be a community who identify with Jesus and grow in likeness to him. This inevitably results in “doing” but the end is Christ not the activity.
In some of my summer reading I came across “Practicing the Way of Jesus” by Mark Scandrette. In it he suggest 8 dynamics which we ought to bear in mind in aiding people in Christ-likeness.
1) Transformation happens through a new vision. At Street Hope we need to meet together to seek a new vision of the Kingdom of God and our place in the reign of Christ.
2) Transformation happens through new experiences. New ideas and vision are good but if our Street Hope Community is to move forward we must individually and as a body actively apply these in our lives. We are to be a show and tell in and to our wider community
3) Transformation happens through establishing new patterns of thought and action. It is only as we continue together that these foreign patterns can become habitual for us at Street Hope. This is at best a slow and steady process. There is no ‘flash in the pan’ success in such transformation.
4) Transformation happens through group encounter and reflection. Scandrette reminds us that we are much more apt to change in solidarity with others. It as we continue to: eat, pray, study, work and reflect together, that we will be transformed.
5) Transformation happens through good examples and guidance. Jesus called a few to follow him for this very purpose. In Street Hope Saint John this role falls to a few of us inside our small community but is the ultimate calling of the entire community to those in the wider community in our city.
6) Transformation happens through failures, setbacks, mistakes and persistence. These types of setbacks do little to enhance our reputation in ‘the world’ but they are vital to our transformation. I have come to think like a baseball player who is satisfied with hitting a little less than 1 in 3 times at bat. I have a whole litany of mistakes and missteps and so do my friends. We must not be defined by our mistakes but instead must ‘fall forward’. In doing so we evidence to the world that God is a God of grace who welcomes those who stumble and fall, into his family.
7) Transformation into the likeness of Christ happens by the power of the Holy Spirit. This calls us to the place of utter humility for apart from Him we can accomplish nothing of lasting value. I am convinced that such a work of the Spirit is less likely if our lives are filled with frenetic activity! It happens when we submit ourselves to his work and offers us hope that what he does in us he can and will do in others.
8) Transformation is rooted in the heart. The goal of Street Hope is not the outward transformation of our city and culture but a renovation in the hearts of a few followers. What God may accomplish through such renovated hearts, we cannot tell!
The way forward for us is downward! We pray that God will bless ministries as they grow in scope and we want to be helpful as we can but our call is a much humbler one. I pray we are up to the task.