Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Community Life

January 14, 2014

men-supporting-each-other

May not accept it but our physique is weak.

With a soul thats bleak controlled by a mind thats weak.

All in all its the completeness that we seek.

But by ourselves its of completeness that we leak.

May not accept it but our physique is weak.

With a soul thats bleak controlled by a mind thats weak.

All in all its the completeness that we seek.

But by ourselves its of completeness that we leak.

Our differences fill in the different holes and gaps in which we lack.

Living in community means we always have our neighbor’s back.

But what does it really mean to be complete.

Is it to have the American dream with a nice car, house,  and newest Jordan’s on your feet.

It isn’t. We can’t be God so we strive to be like Christ.

It’s like we can never be Jordan, so we strive to be like Mike.

It’s working together as one to create the ultimate city of peace.

So each by each our differences come together and complete the puzzle piece by piece.

Community is a fixation fixed on intergration.

Because our love for our neighbor should have no segregation.

Understand that I need you just as much as you need me.

That back and forth connection is how we create the love, peace, and harmony.

So we can stop people from acting to harm many. And stop that heart feeling of enmity and larceny. You don’t want to feel targeted so you constantly blame it on your enemy.

Obvious we cannot be perfect, but we can use the idea of perfection to guide our overall direction.

Devron Woodruff

Devron Woodruff

Devron Woodruff, a high school senior, lives in a South Atlanta neighborhood. He wrote this “spoken” word, inspired by helping to teach the Dignity Serves curriculum.

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.

People Are More Important Than Change

January 11, 2014

By Dan Crain

ATLANTA – Loving people is very hard at times. I love my family dearly, but it can be very difficult.

We are called to love people with the hope that they will change. But, if I am honest with myself, sometimes I love people to change them.

When people don’t change, I sometimes grow frustrated.  I’m forced to wrestle with my own brokenness as I attempt to love them in the best possible ways.  I discover that I have unspoken expectations for people and how they will change.

“Skeptics are the ones who have turned their ideals into expectations.” That sentence – that wisdom –hit me like a ton of bricks when I read it in school.

Ministry can be dangerous and addictive. I remember my first ministry position, as a youth pastor. When I began, we had a very small gathering. It was not long before I was dreaming about what our group could become, and then I started to “idealize” about it. After I had perfected my ideals, I began to build my expectations about the group. Amazingly, those ideals and expectations turned into reality. The youth group grew, and kept expanding. This success – this surge – fed something dangerous in my soul.

Subsequently, when the church went through some very challenging things and the youth group started to decrease in numbers, I grew depressed. I questioned what I was doing wrong – what was wrong with me.

It was only after Christ called me out of ministry and to Himself that I started to examine the core of my interior life, and in that journey, I confronted the baggage I carried: I was addicted to change in people through ministry. In counseling terms, I was extremely co-dependent.

Upon digging further into my soul, the Spirit revealed to me that when my internal life was chaotic, I tried to control the people around me and to manage the events unfolding in my life. Because I had not properly understood God’s grace and love and truly accepted those blessings on my own, I sought to exert control over the people to whom I ministered.

My selfishness boiled down to this: I needed people to change so that I could feel better about myself.

A friend told me recently that God calls us to be faithful “to” people and not “for” people. The “for” in our attempts to love people puts expectations and parameters on our love. The “to” loves freely and without expectations.

I am not called by God to change or redeem anyone. Instead, I am called to love in the best ways possible. I am called to be as faithful and to listen as well as I can to those I seek to serve.

Perhaps this is what Paul is getting at in I Corinthians when he says, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”

I am slowly learning to release the change to God.

God is the author of change, not me. This realization – this truth – makes it easier for me to love my neighbor, to be truly joyful in ministry, because I’m not going to change a thing.  Sometimes it’s incredibly hard and downright difficult at times for me to live out this truth. But when I do, a deep and abiding joy sweeps over me, in the midst of it all.

Dan Crain and his family in Atlanta.

Dan Crain and his family in Atlanta.

Dan Crain is a liaison/trainer for Polis Institute. He and his wife Adrienne and their family live in South Atlanta. 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.

I Stopped Going to Church

November 6, 2013

By Dan Crain

ATLANTA – Recently I had a conversation with a neighbor who lives on the streets in our community. I invited my friend to our church’s Sunday morning service.

He informed me that he had stopped going to church six years ago. He had grown weary of the politics and people looking down on him. So he stopped going.

I then told him that I had stopped going to church, too. He gave me a very curious look, as he knows that I am one of the pastors at the church in our community.

I shared with him that the version of church to which he was referring is most likely what many people call the “institutional” church. Such churches care more about their programs, their building and looking cool than they do about being a force for good in the specific community where they find themselves.

I am more interested in recruiting people into God’s kingdom than trying to fill the pews of our small urban church. I believe that if people see God’s kingdom, they will meet the master of the kingdom, Jesus. Then they will understand that Jesus has wired them to be in community around Him. And then ideally they will understand that for some reason this king has tasked the church to represent him here on Earth.

When I think of “church,” I think of a group of individuals called by Jesus to gather around the preaching of the word, taking the sacraments, share in community together, and moving out toward our neighbors. I think of people who I know and they know me, and the common bond we share in Christ. I think of people who know my junk and call me out on it. I think of people who know of the image of God that I bear and how God glories in me.

I rarely think of a building or even place. It’s not that I am against building or precise locations to worship, but we as North American Christians have grown too consumed with bricks and mortar and their upkeep. I believe that having an extremely nice place to meet unintentionally feeds a little bit of the need for control and security that so dominates American culture.

I was a part of a church for four years, which had what the pastors called “gray chairs.” These chairs were plastic and not very comfortable seats. The pastor continually reminded the congregation that the gray chairs served as reminders that the action was not “in the building,” in was out there beyond the four walls. The action was in the community, in the neighborhood, and among people experiencing distress.

Bob Lupton’s book “Toxic Charity” defines the difference between churches, which are “church-centric” versus “community-centric.” Church-centric congregations do everything to build themselves up. Community-centric congregations do everything for the benefit of their community. I personally believe effective loving on behalf of Jesus require both/and. A church must exist to benefit the neighborhood around it. If a church is doing its work properly, people will experience reconciliation through and in Christ and will be a part of the church.

So, I have stopped going to the institutional church and instead I gather with people who are committed to Christ, myself and loving our community in the best ways we know how. We are humbly learning what it means seek the good of our neighborhood through Christ. If our church were to move or stop meeting, I would want our neighborhood to grieve and plead with us not to abandon meeting and blessing this place. I would want our neighborhood to genuinely miss us because we no longer would be there.

I hope and pray that this becomes true of the church of North America. I hope and pray we all stop going to the institutional form of church and instead join God’s movement of called-out individuals to seek Christ’s kingdom here and now in order to bless the place we find ourselves in.

Dan Crain and his family in Atlanta.

Dan Crain and his family in Atlanta.

Dan Crain is a liaison/trainer for Polis Institute. He and his wife Adrienne and their family live in South Atlanta. 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.

Now This Is an Easter Dinner

April 13, 2013

Photo on 2012-08-25 at 18.26By Dan and Adrienne Crain

ATLANTA – We love Easter. As followers of Jesus, we love all that it represents. The bunny. The chocolate. The ham.  And spring outfits are nice, but what we love about Easter is the Resurrection.

Resurrection means new creation. New creation means new birth. It means the old is now done away with, and now new life is continuously birthed through the power of the Spirit.

Easter dinner for us this year looked different. We live in what is considered an “at-risk” neighborhood. Instead of leaving our neighborhood for Easter we decided, along with some good friends of ours, to stay. We wanted to be with our neighbors on this special day.

We invited neighbors to gather at our house around 4 for a very informal dinner. Promptly at 4, our friends started showing up. And then kids from the neighborhood came. Then many of the young men and women into whom we pour our lives showed up. Next came neighbors who we have been inviting to dinner for two years came. Next thing we knew, there were about 40 people in and around our house. Some were in the yard, jumping on the trampoline. Some were playing corn hole. Wherever they were, they enjoyed really unhealthy food.

Then the highlight: A friend and neighbor who is caught up in the world of selling her body strolled by. We invited her to share some food.

It didn’t hit us until later that night how significant the moment was. Jesus is very clear about welcoming the last, the least and the lost into fellowship. To share food. It was such a joy to welcome this woman into our home for a meal, and to make her feel welcome. What Jesus modeled as table fellowship was becoming a reality.

What a joyful way to celebrate Easter and the Resurrection and new creation, by sharing a meal with this neighbor.

She is a beautiful, and probably a lot younger than she looks. Her role in our neighborhood at this present time is to please men who drive by who willing to pay. Wherever she is on the sidewalk or road, if you look around, you will see her man standing close. He is always watching. Always waiting for her to get in to a car. Always anticipating the money she will hand him when she is done.

When we saw her in our dining room, helping herself to ham, side dishes and a drink, it made our Easter Sunday. Even if she was here for only a minute to fill a plate with food, it was one minute not on the street. She was in a safe place where she was welcomed not because of her body but because she is a woman. A woman who is loved by Jesus.

She isn’t a project. She doesn’t need to be fixed. She has a name and she is our neighbor. And she likes ham. So do we.

Maybe next year she won’t take her food “to go.” Maybe next year we will sit next to her on our couch and we’ll eat ham together. That breaking of bread would surely transform our lives. Maybe her life, too.

Maybe all that God calls us to be as neighbors is walk side by side, to sit side by side, with the people who are right next to us. As friends.

Dan Crain and his family in Atlanta.

Dan Crain and his family in Atlanta.

Dan Crain is a liaison/trainer for Polis Institute. He and his wife Adrienne and their family live in South Atlanta. 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.

What Feeds Your Soul?

March 19, 2013

By Dan Crain

ATLANTA – February 1, 2004, was a game-changer. That day, God asked me to step down from ministry.

It was my first ministry experience, and it ended badly. Without delving into details, three pastors resigned from the church. The resignation letters were read from the pulpit that Sunday morning.

I was one of three.

I vividly recall sitting in pew, beside my future wife, surrounded by students I loved for almost three years. Tears streamed down my face. How had this happened? I had graduated from one of the best Bible colleges in the country; I had interned at a mega-church with a thriving youth ministry; I had built this small youth ministry whose numbers had grown fourfold.

Amid my tears, I realized that, after journeying to the depths of my soul for seven years, I needed the ministry more than the ministry needed me. I was struggling mightily with something called co-dependency.

Codependency is defined: “to be dependent with.” Allow me to sum it up more simply:  People (like me) need something.

I needed ministry to feel safe. Ministry had defined me. I found validation and acceptance in being a pastor. A minister.

Consider this question: Maybe I need _________ more than that _________ needs me?

That Sunday in February, Jesus called me out of ministry by calling me to Himself.

We all do it. We find validation and acceptance in things or possessions or people – jobs, cars, clothes, relationships with spouses or “soul mates,” children, or friends.

What would happen if Jesus decides to strip away these things or people? Would we be able to function? Remember that Jesus said, “Leave everything and follow me.”

A counselor friend, who knows my journey and speaks into my pain, continues to challenge me to “hold ministry loosely.” Without an ongoing recognition of my emptiness, I can quickly succumb to temptation. My temptation is how ministry validates me and feeds me.

This is why I love the way Paul opens his letter to the Ephesians. Verse 3-10 contains three long sentences, specifying what Christ has done for us. Paul’s words are:

  • “Spiritual blessings in Christ”
  • “He chose us in Him”
  •  “Adoption to sonship”
  • “In Him we have redemption“
  • “He made known to us”
  • “He purposed in Christ”

That’s how Christ defines us. He feeds our soul. Not ministry. Not positions. Not relationships.

Nothing external can ever provide that for which our soul longs.

The answer is Christ, and Christ alone.

How do you define yourself?

Dan Crain and his family in Atlanta.

Dan Crain and his family in Atlanta.

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.

A Day In The Life: 2 Worlds in Atlanta

September 23, 2012

By Dan Crain

ATLANTA – I really love what God has called us into. As many of you know, I am a pastor/trainer/neighbor, leading “the church” (people) into living a life of giving and receiving with everyone we interact with. Through joining, listening and living interdependently with residents of an at-risk community, I see the ways in which God is at work.

Here’s an example of a good day, in two worlds

I was working in the office space I rent from in our neighborhood. I grew hungry and decided to return home to grab a bite before  my next appointment.

As I pulled into our driveway, I noticed a neighbor I am getting to know as he sat next to the large oak tree. He lives in and watches the vacant homes in our neighborhood. He’s a watchdog so thieves don’t strip the homes of copper rain gutters and pipes. (There’s quite a market for copper, which people sell to survive).

The neighbor and I exchanged greetings as I walked into the house. But I wasn’t far beyond the threshold when I felt the Spirit tell me: “Go and share your lunch with him.” In the kitchen, I heated up lunch and walked outside with two full plates – not before my wife asked me, “What are you doing?”

We shared lunch together for 10 minutes, and we talked. He shared about his life and his periods of homelessness. But we also talked about family and his three daughters. Bob Lupton says, “A relationship built on need will always be pathological.” I tried not to focus his need, but to learn what he enjoys and is good at. A good friend said, “The closer we get to treating everyone as family, the closer we get to how Jesus wants us to serve people in need.”

I spoke to this neighbor about church, and I shared more than its location – I offered an invitation. As a Pastor in an under-served neighborhood, I can point people on the streets in the direction of the church. “Come, be a part of our community,” I say. Then I asked my neighbor how I could pray for him, and I told him how he could pray for me.

When we had finished, I hopped into my car and drove out of the neighborhood to one of the more affluent neighborhoods in Atlanta. I had an appointment with someone who is interested in becoming a trainer in our Dignity Serves curriculum.

We talked about the same subjects as I did with my homeless friend; struggles with life, family, living inter-dependently, and the huge potential God have placed in our lives. Both people in such different neighborhood circumstances have huge value and dignity. I am learning to appreciate both and have the same kinds of conversations with people regardless of their apparent need.

It was a good day in two worlds.

Dan and Adrienne Crain and their family. Since this photo, they've been blessed by the arrival of twins, Eden Violet Alliene and Isaac Levi Keith.

Dan and Adrienne Crain and their family. Since this photo, they’ve been blessed by the arrival of twins, Eden Violet Alliene and Isaac Levi Keith.

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.

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.

You Are the Light

June 16, 2012

Brian Carlson photography

By Phil Hissom

John has lived in Palms Trailer Park for three years. He has seen a lot of rough stuff go down, but he’s also seen the positive changes in the park. I had the opportunity to spend some time with him the other day, and I asked him why he thought things have gotten better.

His answer surprised me: “It’s you guys; you are the light.”

I was taken aback. I believe Jesus when he said, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). But when John said it, sincerely and to my face, my mind raced for a way to correct him – “oh no, we just help out,” or “Jesus is the light,” or “there have been so many people involved, we’re nothing special” – true enough, but I’m glad that what actually came out of my mouth was, “Thanks John, that’s a very kind thing to say.”

John went on to share about his life and his own budding relationship with God.

“You know,” he said, “I’m all about the facts. When people say ‘God did this’ and ‘God did that’ after I’ve just seen them do it themselves … well, that makes me suspicious.” He continued, “There’s usually a perfectly reasonable, scientific explanation for things and that’s the way I think.”

So he decided to test God, scientifically, by the facts.

He prayed one day and asked God to give him a sign, and within 24 hours – Bam! – he got it. To him, that was now just a fact, plain as day. He did it a few more times and – Bam! – within 24 hours each time it would happen. “I couldn’t ignore the facts so I started praying every day. I didn’t feel right about testing God so I stopped doing that. I started to just ask him to help me. I have been doing that now for about six months.”

John went on to talk about making something of his life with the skills God has given him. And even though he’s far from home and close friends, he’s moving forward with his plan:

He works full-time and recently enrolled in college. He’s also helping others. He helped a single mother who had been lured into prostitution get back to the safety of her family in another state and into the arms of her daughter. It took a long time to make it happen, but he persisted in doing good because he knew it was right. John’s an awesome young man. He said, “My family is so proud of me now.” I can see why. I’m proud of him, too.

At some point, I had to ask, “So why do you think all these positive changes are happening in your life?”

He thought for a moment and said simply, “God,” while he continued in thought. After a few minutes he added, “But I ain’t about to get all religious or anything; some people get carried away with that stuff. I keep it simple. I know God hears my prayers and helps me and my life is getting better. Failure’s not an option for me anymore.”

Wow, John. Thanks for sharing your story and allowing me to share it on this blog. YOU, my friend, are the light.

Phil Hissom

Phil Hissom is the Founder of the POLIS Insitute and the primary author of Dignity Serves. He can be reached at phil@polisinstitute.org.

Consider signing up for Dignity Serves, a six-lesson 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.

Everyone Needs to Change Except Me

May 24, 2012

By Dan Crain

ATLANTA — I find it much easier to talk about someone else’s brokenness than my own. Perhaps this is why it is so tempting to watch shows like Moury Povich or TMZ. We like to observe the ugliness of others.

Why? It helps us escape ourselves, our own ugliness.

When we avoid self-examination and focus on the faults of others, it helps fill that emptiness inside our souls that was meant to be filled only with the love and affection of God, and His insistence that we are His beloved.

In other words, everyone needs to change except me.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about someone else who is not living a very healthy lifestyle. We decided that this person should make changes and confront some issues. Then I asked: “What did Jesus need to change in us?”

Does our friend need to change? Yes.

Do I need to change? Yes.

Pointing out the brokenness in others ignores this fact.

I see this manifest itself even in our two children, who are 4 and 2.

As my wife and I prepare for the addition of twins, we have tried putting Landon and Karis to sleep in the same bedroom. One night Landon told us that Karis enticed him want to play with his toys, as she disobediently decided to get out of bed and play.

The next night, when I told them it was time for bed, I said, “This means no playing around.” To this, Landon responded that Karis was the “trouble maker.”

This is one small example of why I find Jesus’ teachings so compelling. He cuts to the point and calls all of  us sinners, or, in my son’s word, “trouble makers.”

Look at the story of the woman caught in adultery. Her accusers brought this woman before Jesus to point out her sin, her brokenness.

What does Jesus do? He throws her accusers’ own brokenness right back at them: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

So how should we respond to the shortcomings of others, to their brokenness?

We should extend the same love, grace, forgiveness, kindness, mercy and faithfulness that God gives to us. We are broken people for whom God has forgiven much.

When we realize this, we can look at ourselves in a mirror and ask: Who really needs to change?

Dan Crain and his family.

Dan Crain and his 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.

A Conversation of Assumptions

January 20, 2012

By Dan Crain

ATLANTA — I witnessed a recent conversation as a volunteer with an amazing heart to serve the homeless spoke with a vulnerable man living on the streets.

It all started when the volunteer, Betsy, overheard me talking with Chuck, who lives on the streets of Atlanta. Chuck told me that he wanted to move back to southern Georgia, to be near his son.

Betsy jumped into the conversation and encouraged Chuck that this is what he should do right now:  move so he could live near  his son. Chuck was somewhat taken aback by her comment, and replied that he didn’t have the money. Betsy’s solution: Chuck should move in with his son. She had no idea that his son is only 5 years old. Chuck then explained that the boy lives with his mother.

Betsy then encouraged Chuck to move  in with his ex-wife. Only this wasn’t possible. Chuck, you see, had never been married to his son’s mother.

Betsy gave up and moved on.

Throughout the conversation, someone who also lives on the streets stood behind Betsy, smiling and shaking his head. I could tell by the look on his face that he knew Betsy didn’t understand.

There are many layers to this conversation to unpack. One is that Betsy was there. She showed up, wanting to help the homeless that day. This has to be celebrated, because she took time out of her busy life to be with the most vulnerable.

Another layer to peel back is Betsy failed to understand what was going on in Chuck’s life. She didn’t listen. Instead, she tried to solve Chuck’s problems for him. This is never a good idea. And after she realized that Chuck was not going to do what she deemed best for him, Betsy moved on. You could see the disappointment in her eyes, that Chuck’s reluctance to follow her advice confirmed her prejudices about street people.

What happened in this conversation occurs all too often in our own conversations. Too often we fail to listen, to empathize with what someone is going through. We try to solve a person’s problems the way we think problems should be handled. And if he or she doesn’t respond the way we want, we give up. We try to play God, and then we turn away in disappointment. Too often, we’re tempted to think: The world would be a better place if only everyone adopted  my white, middle-class, Western way of thinking.

Trying to change someone is a tricky game. It rarely ever works.

Why do we talk to street people like we do? Many times we engage in conversations with them as if we’re doing so out of a sense of pity. How condescending! What if we spoke with the vulnerable as if we were speaking to one of our very best friends?

Maybe what Chuck really needed was someone to listen and empathize with him, someone who would care about  what he’s going through. Does Chuck need a job and a house? Absolutely. But maybe that is not what God has in mind for Chuck at the moment.

Maybe the best question to ask is: What is Jesus calling Chuck to do? Such a question may reveal a very different answer than what we think Chuck needs to do. I have talked with people living on the streets who firmly believe that being homeless is exactly where God wants them to be for now.

Betsy was in no way going to change Chuck. We can’t change people. So what is Jesus calling us to do?  Maybe to stand with, and for,  the most vulnerable among us. Maybe just to listen.

Maybe if we really listened, we, ourselves, would realize who really needs to change.

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.