Sunday, September 9, 2007

the church in the world

One of the things I love about our church is that we're committed to being church and doing church in the spaces of "the world". This is pretty important in Europe since many people have simply given up on the church. I mean, think about it: what has the church really done for others?

The other day, Kelly was telling me about a visit he and Jonathan had with a man here in Madrid that runs a ministry to homeless people called Mision Urbana. When Kelly asked him what evangelical churches were doing about the problem of homelessness (or even just any kind of issue touching on social justice), the man drew a blank and noted that evangelical churches, by and large, were doing nothing.

It seems that the Body of Christ doesn't understand that, just as God sent his Son to the world to touch the hurting and the outcast with His grace, so we are sent by Christ to touch those who need his love in very practical ways. Instead of the Body of Christ going to the hopeless, we expect them to "come to us." So, we say, "Well, we have church every Sunday. If they want God, they can come to us."

Oh, we don't say this literally, but sometimes we communicate as much when we think of church merely as a place to which we go, rather than a "people who are sent, collectively, into the world--to point out, create, and spread God's beauty and joy."

This is why I love our church: because we are blessed with a bunch of people that understand this. And I know folks in our church "get this" (more than I do, by the way!), because a handful of our members have been going virtually every Friday for the past two years to the streets of Madrid to bring food, conversation and friendship to about three dozen homeless people. They understand God's commission to minister to those without hope.

And, this is why I'm excited about this particular weekend: last spring, the sandwich route folks were debriefing from one of their outings. As they did so, they began brainstorming ways in which they could "go the next level" with their ministry. And, as they did that, they realized how huge the problem was, and how limited they were. As they made that realization, they became convinced that they needed to spend a season in prayer, asking God for wisdom as to how to move forward and asking God to bless the ministry and the homeless people that had become their friends.

Somewhere along the way, the group thought it would be a good idea to hold a retreat in the autumn (at the close of their season of prayer) to talk, listen, brainstorm what they felt God was telling them. And that's what they're doing this weekend.

I, for one, am excited to see what comes out of their time together. I'm particularly interested because, not only will they be talking specifically about the sandwich route, but they'll also be brainstorming other ways we can love those who have given up on God and the church, no matter what their station in life.

If you think of it, pray for them today.

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