Seen and not heard

So I debated long and hard about whether or not to write this post, or relate this story. I wanted to use it as a logical next step in our (yours and my) on-going conversation about effective Christianity, but Matthew would seem to suggest that it would be best to keep my mouth shut.
I wouldn’t want a blog post to destroy the effectiveness of the effort, but I don’t think I have any right to continue my ranting if we’re not practicing what we preach… So, comments are closed for this article. I don’t write it seeking reply or affirmation, but as a bridge between the previous posts observing some problems, and any follow-up posts I might write proposing solutions. Plus, I couldn’t shut up about how mad Tim Horton’s made me, so that kinda blew my ability to be discrete.
There will not be another self-congratulatory post like this again. Only our commitment that I won’t rant on this site about problems that we are not willing to work to resolve. When I say things like “Christians need to roll up their sleeves and dig in,” we desire to be a part of that effort. And when I say things like “Get out of your church,” I mean to do just that.

This was the scene in our kitchen last Friday night after the kids went to bed. We made 24 lunches — good ones, ones that we’d eat and feed our kids. We searched high and low for biodegradeable, disposable coffee cups, getting no help from the grocery stores, that sell only plastic or styrofoam, and no help from a certain coffee shop who hides behind ridiculous corporate policies. We finally prevailed upon a friend to nab us some from church.
Aside from that, there was no mission, no organization and no team. No instruction and no one in charge. Just a Biblical mandate and a desire to understand how we, as individuals, are supposed to apply it to our lives.
Saturday morning, I drove up to Toronto and picked-up a friend who lives there. We loaded up our back-packs with the lunches and some coffee, and took the subway downtown. We walked for about 5 hours, sometimes finding clumps of homeless people together, sometimes walking for blocks without seeing a single one. Often we’d pass someone, or nearly pass them, before we realized they were there — the down-trodden have become so invisible in our big cities.
Some of them were happy to see us, eager to talk and share our company for a few moments. A few were barely coherent, mumbling to themselves, but accepting the gift. Some didn’t get up from sleeping on the sidewalk, under a tattered sleeping bag or blanket, so we set our brown bag lunches down beside them and continued on. A few declined our offer, or accepted it grudgingly when we explained we didn’t bring any money to give them.
All of them were desperate for something.
I’d like to say we did this strictly out of the kindness of our hearts. But my motives likely weren’t that pure. I think I did this because I’m a little upset — if you haven’t picked that up from some of my posts lately:
I’m upset because if you look at the organizations and the people in your communities who do this kind of thing regularly, I think you’ll find that many (if not most) of them are non-Christian. Secular organizations are leading the way in a ministry that every single Christian should feel compelled to do — no matter where they live, or what their lives are like.
I’m upset because individual Christians have relinquished their personal responsibility to their confused definition of “the church.” We think the church is the building we go to on Sunday, and the staff and volunteers who work there define it, and we’ve totally forgotten that each of us is the church.
That listening to a sermon and joining a small group… that’s not living like a Christian. That’s living like a follower — a consumer! Living like a Christian means that we are each servant-leaders. We each have a mandate to live out Christ in our lives. We can’t wait for a pastor to pull together a missions team — we’re already on a mission.
I’m upset because I’ve been waiting around for someone to tell me what I’m supposed to do here. I’m upset because someone, over a year ago, told me that they didn’t think I was fit to serve God, and I actually believed them. I actually gave credence to a flawed human being, with questionable motives, over what I know the Bible says to do. I’ve been waiting for someone to tell me “OK, you can come out of timeout now. Here’s what I want you to do.” And that’s not God’s instruction for me at all.
I’m upset because everything I’ve ever needed has been provided for, and even though I’ve attributed those blessings to financial obedience and a willingness to serve, its never occurred to me that just obeying isn’t enough. If I went to work and did only what I was told, I might keep down a job, but I certainly wouldn’t be where I am in my career. If my boss expects initiative from me — if I expect it from the people I work with — how much more does our God, who’s blessed us beyond what we can understand — expect it from us?
I’m tired of useless Christians. I’m tired of the people who leave their church just to use their faith as a bludgeon. But I’m just as tired of people who don’t leave their church at all.
I’m tired of waiting for someone to tell me that God wants to use me, and how. I’m tired of people who won’t serve unless they’re asked. The Bible doesn’t say “Go to your church leaders and ask permission to make disciples!” The Bible doesn’t require an organization supporting or defining your efforts. If you are called to a place of leadership where your ministry is a facility for the ministry of others, then that’s great. But if you’re not, you’re still called to ministry! Right now!
That doesn’t mean I’m opposed to accountability. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek both God and Godly council. It just means that we have to get up off our butts and stop waiting for someone to call us by name to a specific task. We’ve already been called by name, and our task is clear. Why is the secular world doing a better job of behaving like Christ than we are?
I don’t know about you, but I’m of the opinion that if Christians want to make an impact on our society, we need to stop yelling at people, and start serving them — and serving with them. To quote a late-90s Christian rock band: sometimes God’s children need to be seen and not heard.