Have you ever wondered at what point even Jesus had his limits? I don’t mean the kind of limits like “what can’t God do?”… No, I am speaking of limits with the very people who he was working so hard to reveal His glory among so that they could live with Him forever. Think about all of the healing, the giving, the feeding, the teaching and forgiving, and yet, to many of them, it still wasn’t enough. In fact, at one point in the testament after he feeds 5000 people, he tells them, “You only followed me because you wanted food.” (John 6) He then went on to discuss the reality that those following him at the time really weren’t interested in what He was interested in (their spiritual lives on earth and heaven). He leaves us with the understanding that they were more interested in an entitled meal. Can you imagine that being said today in our ministry? What would happen if one of us stood up on a Wednesday night at our family meal at church and made such a bold declaration? One of the things that I am picking up on (and you may be too) is that our Wednesday night meals are growing in number with people that are coming from the community. This past week, around 60 people from the community ate with us. Many of these individuals and families have little vested interest in anything that we are doing other than having a meal. Does this feel like its getting out of control? Do they have enough food that they really need to be fed by us? How would I know who is hungry and who really is not? Is there something that we can do to address this? Should I stand up and throw down with “You’re only following because…” like Jesus did? Can you do that for me if I can’t? I don’ think either of us can or should because we have a problem; we’re not Jesus! We’re not the judge, He is. He is perfect, knows the hearts and thoughts of mankind and has the credibility to speak as He spoke. We often have a hard time getting our own thoughts figured out, let alone trying to come off like we have His all together! However, it doesn’t mean that we should be walked on on over either. As we are helping our community there is so much discernment that needs to take place so that we can effectively help others without hurting them or ourselves. So, how do we tap into finding such discernment? What are the boundaries of it and who gets to make the decisions of when we help and why? I thought it would be good to answer questions like this by breaking down some fundamentals of mentoring that we can learn from Jesus’ ministry and implement among us:
1. Let The Holy Spirit do the discerning for us. In other words, why do we have to be the ones who are trying to judge whether or not we are being used and ripped off as a church or personally? If we are in tune with the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives, then He is who we will be seeking in our words and hearts to try and guide our decisions before we rush to snap judgment. As I write this, we are working hard as a church staff (because there is no way I could do this myself) to create a plan that will address the needs of the hungry in a more effective way than we are now. The thing is though, if we address it by making our own plans and relying on our own strengths, then we will fail. Instead, I ask that you join us in discussing possible solutions only as we commit to praying that God would show us the way to help others without enabling them. An effort to change some of the functions of this ministry without the Holy Spirit is not an effort worth embarking.
2. Keep up to date on current events that effect the culture of the materially poor by asking around. It seems like everyday we are hearing something new on the news about government programs that are offered to provide more relief to the American people. Personally, I think a lot of it is political smokescreen… However, I encourage you to look beyond the headlines and start talking with your neighbors and relatives about what these things mean. For example, did you know that according to our local school administration, currently 53% of the student population in Wooster City Schools qualify for free or reduced lunches. That is a statistic that stretches into lives far beyond one or two neighborhoods. Behind this number, what is happening to the families that are represented? Where is their income coming from? What about their food supply? What do they do in their off-time? How many of these households are affective by unemployment? Don’t assume that you know the answers because you have an opinion. Instead approach these questions genuinely seeking an answer. These are questions worth asking about in our communities that we associate with so that we can discover how the programs given by national and state government are affecting our people at the local level.
3. Identify a group of people in your community that you can serve and study with together. In other words, don’t look for a great Sunday School class to learn more about God, look for God’s people to work with, learn with and serve together with for the sake of the Kingdom. To place our stake of pride in our classes that fill our heads with knowledge is dangerous because our intellectual knowledge falls short in Jesus eyes. It was Him who reminds us that those who think we can see are really blind. On the other hand, if we fill our lives with just feeding people and offer no opportunity for spiritual knowledge, then we are in danger of creating a culture of enabling people who could potentially help themselves. Notice that Jesus spent His time not only feeding but leading, mentoring and teaching. Is that how your group spends their time? It’s interesting that for many Christians, real church means sitting and listening while for others it is working without ever studying the Word.
These three discussion points are just offering some foundational groundwork for more discussion to come regarding this topic. As we let God lead us through this, will we seek to be disciples that can see past the easy stuff of just listening, or just working? Can we be the kind of Christ followers who will interact with our communities of friends, study groups, and neighbors the way that the disciples did? The only way that we will find out is to take this snowball of service that has started and work together to adapt to the next step of helping the soul. More to come later…. take care.