Archive for July, 2012

Saved From the Addiction to Change in People

July 26, 2012

By Dan Crain

ATLANTA – So I have been on this urban ministry journey for about 2½ years now – not long, but time enough to observe interesting things and to experience moments of pure joy, not to mention complete bewilderment and frustration.

I find it  discouraging when people into whose lives I pour myself make bad decisions. Or they don’t show up for meetings. Or they don’t seem to care.

I wrestle with myself, asking: Why are we doing this? Does what God has called us into make any difference?

I find that when we attach ourselves to change, we quickly burn out.

This was my experience during four years of youth ministry life. People would “change” – for example, decide to follow Jesus – and I would get excited and hopeful. Eventually they would return to their old habits, addictions and behaviors, and I would be discouraged. My identity was attached to the changes they had made in their lives. This indicated a tendency on my part to be codependent. I found myself deriving meaning and purpose from the change in people.

I am slowly learning to detach myself from this sort of change. Do I want and long for change, for people to turn their lives around and embrace God? Absolutely! As Christians, the spirit within us yearns for this world to be different. Paul speaks of this in Romans 8, when Creation “groans for redemption. “

There are beautiful moments that inspire joy. For example, our house is strategically located on a corner where lots of people walk by. We are often in our back yard, playing baseball with our kids. Not long ago, my son Landon hit a ball over the fence, into the street. Upon retrieving it, I ran into a neighbor I have been getting to know.

Todd and I stopped to talk. He proceeded to tell me how much he enjoys watching us play as a family. Our backyard ball games make him long for his family back in Charleston, S.C. He reminisced of going to the beach, of deep-sea fishing, of the job he had with his family. He expressed his desire to return home.

As we stood in the street, the wind gently blew at our backs. I considered it a reminder from God that His spirit is constantly moving.

As Todd and I continued chatting, one of the young adults in the neighborhood stopped by the house to drop off a reference letter for the summer camp our church puts on. He has incredible potential but has been wrestling with direction in life. Attending the camp is a good next step for him, as it is a great avenue for training young leaders.

Before Todd and I parted ways, we prayed for one another. We were in agreement that we are not here to “save” people, and that we probably need more “saving” than most people do.

It was in this moment we realized “this is not why we do what we do.” We do not love people or develop friendships because we want them to change.

Any change is up to God. Instead, we do what we do because God has called us to be faithful in the small things, to be good neighbors. We are called to show up again and again and again.

God is the author of change, not us. God cares more about changing this world and redeeming all things far more than I ever will.

Living with this awareness allows me to hold change very loosely.

Dan Crain and family

Dan Crain is a liaison/trainer in South Atlanta for Polis Institute. He can be reached at dan@polisinstitute.org.

Consider signing up for Dignity Serves, a six-week course that helps you rethink the way we serve others in our community. It teaches you to see problems differently and respond in a way that empowers those you serve rather than just meeting their immediate needs.

Theology of Place: Live, Worship, Play Together

July 21, 2012

By Bill Behr

I recently was honored to hear architectural/urban designer Mel McGowan speak at Summit Church.  McGowan, who describes himself as “a card-carrying member of the Supreme Architect’s fan club,” is the president of Visioneering Studios, the nation’s leading designer of Christ-centered communities, specializing in architectural evangelism for churches and ministries.

He is the first architect I have heard speak about the “Theology of Place.”  He believes in redesigning neighborhoods so they can be places where our neighbors “live, worship and play” together.

This is what Mr. McGowan says in his blog:

“Just as God called Nehemiah back to restore the city of God, I believe that God is calling Christians today to redeem and restore sustainable Christ-centered community back to the heart of our communities, even where endless agglomerations of suburban subdivisions have never previously had a heart. Every believer can start by following Christ’s command to ‘love your neighbor’ and taking the ‘neighbor’ thing a little more seriously. …

“Choosing your neighborhood is choosing a mission field; prayerfully consider God’s leading in the same way that a missionary would. This singular decision is also the one that will have the greatest impact on our creation care footprint. The choice of where we live in relation to daily life needs: work, school, the grocery store, etc. is the single biggest variable with influence on the economic and environmental sustainability of our communities. …

“The challenge can sometimes seem daunting: to create sacred space in the heart(s) of the city … to bring a bit of the kingdom of heaven to earth; to build something that just might last the trial by fire. May you follow the God of Nehemiah on the journey to real community. …

“When choosing where to live, have you ever considered the issue through the lens of a ‘theology of place’? Why or why not?

“How does the physical location of where we live, shop, work, or go to school apply to our faith and mission as God’s people?

“How does the place you live — whether in the suburbs or not — make developing genuine community difficult? What could you do to overcome those barriers?

“Do you believe your church has a theology of place? If so, how? If not, how might you be a catalyst toward that end?”

Mel McGowan asks great  questions that we should  prayerfully consider and discuss with our neighbors and your church.  Do you see your neighborhood as “sacred space”?  Jesus called all of us to “love our neighbor as ourselves,” and that means moving into their space, to build real community.

Lord, help me to be more like Christ by reaching out and getting to know my neighbors.

Bill Behr

Bill Behr is the Associate Campus Minister of Summit @ 33rd St. and can be reached at bbehr@summitconnect.org.

Consider signing up for Dignity Serves, a six-week course that helps you rethink the way we serve others in our community. It teaches you to see problems differently and respond in a way that empowers those you serve rather than just meeting their immediate needs.