"Go out on the street and bring the Kingdom of God. Come back in an hour," my friend said to the handful of college students standing in his living room.
There was a moment of stunned silence as the group waited for further instructions from my friend, but none came.
One of the brave raised his hand and asked, "Don't you want to give us some idea what we should do to bring the Kingdom? I mean, what have other church groups done here in the past?"
My friend shook his head from side to side. "Nope. Just go out there and bring the Kingdom. You've got an hour. See ya back here when you're done," he said, and walked away.
Slowly the group broke into groups of two or three and made their way out to the streets to bring the Kingdom of God to the children and families living in this forgotten neighborhood wracked by poverty, gang violence, drugs and crime.
As the group shuffled into the streets they had to grapple with what to do. They each wrestled inside with the question and individually they had to first ask themselves what the Kingdom of God was before they could decide how to bring it to this place and to these people over the next hour.
One group played with some of the kids on the street in an abandoned lot, kicking around a soccer ball and getting to know the names of the boys who spoke English.
Another group walked over to a few women standing in their yard and struck up a conversation, introducing themselves, making small talk, looking for a way to bring the Kingdom of God into that moment.
Others wandered the streets praying for each house and asking God to help them to see what the Father was doing in this place, and what He wanted them to do over the next hour of time. No voices boomed from the skies. No clouds took shape in the heavens to spell out a command. They just kept praying and walking.
When the hour was over the group returned to my friend's living room. Some had come back early, some were late returning because of their soccer game. Eventually all of them were sitting around on the floor and talking about what they did the previous hour to bring the Kingdom of God to this poverty-stricken neighborhood.
My friend listened to their various experiences and stories and then he challenged them, "Do you think what you did really brought the Kingdom of God to this place?" The group looked around at one another. Some of them nodded yes, others shrugged, some laughed.
My friend asked, "Do you think any of the people you met just now will remember your name tomorrow? Will they remember what you did or said two days from now?"
My friend lives in this neighborhood with his wife and several other couples who are trying to live their lives as incarnational missionaries to the families on this street. They have immersed themselves into this community, taken on the same needs and concerns as the people they serve, and have learned to share in the day-to-day struggles facing every single person on the block.
The group was silent now, looking at the floor, staring into space. My friend continued, "Why is it you thought you could come to this neighborhood and put in a single hour of service and expect to bring the Kingdom of God to this place? It takes more than a casual moment to really bring the Kingdom of God. We have to be willing to surrender more than just one hour of our lives in order to see real change take place. Service to others has to be a full-time job, a way of life, not just a weekend slot between coffee and a movie with our friends."
Everyone around the circle started to nod to themselves. Some of them began to talk together about how they first felt when my friend had instructed them to just go to the streets and bring the Kingdom. They shared together honestly about how the exercise had challenged them to define the Kingdom in practical terms and how poorly equipped they were to do such a simple thing.
They had come to this place thinking that they had solutions to bring, or light to shine, but now they were beginning to see that what was required was more than a part-time commitment. Several of the students shook my friend's hand and thanked him for the experience. A few of them wandered out thinking they had just wasted an hour of their life playing soccer.
They had come to teach others, but now, as they strolled back to their cars and drove back to their homes, they had discovered something unexpected and valuable. Something that could never be learned from a book or a sermon.
My friend watched them drive away and he whispered a prayer for each of them. In his heart he was hopeful that a few would return to share more than just an hour of time, but that they might hear the call of God's heart to give and serve others as a way of life.
"We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us." - (1 Thess 2:8)
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." - JESUS (John 13:34-35)
*MONTHLY COLUMN: Over at http://www.ginkworld.net I have a regular monthly column called [Subversive]. You should check it out.
*SEED STORIES: I also have a few articles up now on http://www.seedstories.com. There's still time to go read those if you're not too busy.
*SHAMELESS MARKETING: I'm not bashful. I need a job! If you're looking for someone to help promote or market your conference or event, I'm your man. I can also help with graphic design needs, event logistics, teach a workshop, you name it.
Hit me up by email: "elysiansky (at) hotmail (dot) com"
*REBELLION OF THOUGHT: The DVD Documentary produced and directed by my friend Kent Williamson is soon to be released! Rumor has it that the companion discussion guide will be written by a "subversive pastor"...
*THE MISSION: Our House Church continues to be a source of blessing and encouragment to me. I'm so blessed that God has allowed us to be part of such an amazing family-based, community-lead, Spirit-filled group of believers. Check out some of our adventures and even a little photo journal here: