by Keith Giles
For most of this week I've been struggling with depression. I've felt like a loser because my search for a full-time job has come up empty, after months of doing contract work and sending out resumes and beating the bushes, as they say.
I've felt like a failure because I seem to be unable to do what most guys my age seem to do with ease. Why is it taking so long? What am I supposed to learn from this? Am I doing something wrong?
Last week I attended a talk by John Hayes (author of "Sub-Merge"). It was all about incarnational missions, and many of my friends who are already doing this sort of work were there too.
John's testimony involves his immersion into one of the poorest, gang-infested, violent streets in Santa Ana several years ago as a single, white male. He discovered an "incarnational" approach to missions where he himself lived among people and became part of their families and shared in their struggles in order to invest in their lives and to work for long-term spiritual and economic development in the community.
As I listened to John share his story with us, I realized that I was called to the same sort of ministry he was called to, but with one exception. He, and others in that room, were called to live among people who were from another culture to help them escape the grip of poverty they were living in.
Honestly, if God had called me to go and live among the poor in order to serve them as Jesus would, I'd have no trouble with that. Instead, I realized, that God had called me to do exactly the same thing, but to my own people group. Instead of calling me and my family to move into a lower class community to live as missionaries to the poor, He has called us to move into a white, middle class community to serve and love them as missionaries.
This has been difficult for me to accept and to work out in my head...and my heart.
As John continued to speak, I begin to see snapshots of each child's face from our street. Under each photo I saw their name and this sentence; "This is Johnny. I am his pastor. I love him." Face after face. Name after name. I realized that, like it or not, I am the pastor of Glenview Place.
Finally, I realized that it's not up to me to figure things out before I step forward. My only concern is to go and to do exactly what I know that God has called me to do, regardless of whether or not I can understand why ministry to the poor has been ommitted from my marching orders. It doesn't matter. I don't need to understand first. I just need to go and to do.
My wife, Wendy, always has great insight for me at times like this. She reminded me that, as we begin to become more involved in the lives of our neighbors here on Glenview Place, we might discover poverty that isn't easily recognized on the surface. I think she's right.
So...starting in mid-March we've decided to invite our entire neighborhood over to our house for a Barbecue. Our plan is just to get to know people here a little better. After that we'll invite individual families over for dinner in the evenings and see where things go from there.
It's a long-term vision to make friends, love people and follow the Holy Spirit as we enter into relationship with others.
Just yesterday I was invited to attend a meeting with the Senior Chaplain of the local Rescue Mission and the Motel Ministry leader at Saddleback (yes...THAT Saddleback Church). I was humbled to sit at the same table with these two men. We talked about strategies for bringing other local churches in Orange County to the table so that we could have every poverty motel covered by at least one church. We shared ideas, we prayed together, we agreed to start inviting other pastors and to meet once per quarter to get things rolling.
As I sat at that table with these other men I wondered, "What am I doing here?" One guy is overseeing close to a hundred small groups as they mobilize to serve the poor who are living in area motels. He's written his own curriculum to train new pastors on how they can get involved and duplicate their ministry. The other guy is the Senior Chaplain of the "Cadillac" of Rescue Missions in North America. Their founder regularly flies to Washington D.C. to meet with the President to talk about how other major cities can implement their programs and services to their own poor. They've just built a small town called "The Village of Hope" to provide homeless families with job training, day care, education, medical care, and counseling.
And then there's me. I don't have a job. I pastor a house church of about 17 people in my house. I write a newsletter that's read by around 100 people.
What was I doing there? How had I been invited to this meeting?
It made me realize that God really does still intend to have me serve the poor in Orange County. He still intends for me to interact with other pastors on this issue. He still wants me to serve the poor and love them the way He would.
Last Sunday our Mission House Church met at the Studio Inn in Santa Ana. This is the same motel my family and I have been serving at for about four years now. I was asked by the ministry from Saddleback to preach a sermon for their pancake breakfast. It's honestly the first time I've preached a sermon at that motel in all those years. Our own ministry has dealt mainly with children and their families and I've always wanted people to know that we love them before we ever preach to them. So, we've spent more of our energy on serving and blessing them with no strings attached.
Last Sunday I stood up and opened my Bible for the first time and preached a sermon to a handful of people under the E-Z Up Tents. Afterwards one gentleman named "Rick" came up to me. He told me he'd only been out of prison for about a year. He used to be hooked on heroin. He told me he had given his Bible away to an elderly woman, a friend of his, who was very sick and wanted to read the Word. I told him I'd get him a new Bible to replace it. He said it had to be King James. Luckily I have a nice, white leather KJV that someone gave to me about a year ago.
I realize that Rick needs a church home. He needs other Christians who will encourage him and help him navigate life outside of prison. I realize that God wants me to invite Rick to our house church...to my house, to worship alongside us so we can help to disciple him.
This will be a stretch for me. It will be a stretch for some of the families in our house church to welcome someone like Rick into our fellowship. I'm not even sure he will join us or not. But I know I need to invite him.
Maybe what I'm discovering is that being a loser isn't so bad. Maybe my problem all this time is that I've been afraid to let go...to lose my life for the sake of Christ.
"...and now I know the secret that only losers keep...now I know the reason why all the finder's weep" - kg
"For whoever desires to save his life shall lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake shall find it." - JESUS (Matthew 16:25)
COMING SOON: "The Non-Con" is coming soon. Details are developing. I'm praying now about a location. I've invited a few people to join us as our facilitators. I've even purchased the domain name www.non-con.com
There's a basic blog here:
DISCUSSION GROUP: I'm trying one last time to set up an online forum where you guys and gals can provide feedback, share comments, engage in dialog, etc. You'll be getting an email about the [Subversive Underground] Google Group soon. I hope you'll join and share your story.