One of the many exciting parts of this year’s annual meeting of the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin was the opportunity to interview folks from churches throughout the region and hear stories of how they are connecting with people in their neighborhoods and communities. These stories will eventually be written up and shared online at www.missionalnetworking.org as a way to encourage, inspire and challenge each other as we live out God’s mission in our own areas.
Last month, we talked about the many things we are doing as well as a number of opportunities to volunteer and serve in the community in new ways. I also challenged us to think through the things we do in terms of reach (connecting with new people outside our church and getting to know those within the congregation) and impact (being purposeful about what we do in terms of living deeper into our relationship with God and others).
It’s important to remember that our faithfulness is not measured by our busy-ness or even our effectiveness, but first and foremost humbly living as the child of God who loves us and invites us deeper into true life. At the same time, the kind of life God gives us is one that becomes richer and more abundant as we give it away, inviting others to share in what we have received and in the mission God calls us into.
We might think, “Well, that sounds great – but how do we really make those kinds of connections? I’m old / young / busy / tired / introverted / got my own stuff to deal with.” Believe it or not, I can sympathize. It’s not easy for me to find new ways to reach out and connect with people outside of the networks of “churchdom”. One of the (many) reasons I was grateful for the time Memorial allowed me to serve at Connect Café is that it provided a natural way to get to know a wide group of people.
But as I think of the stories I’ve heard through missional networking, and as I think about how people are responding to opportunities God has shown us here at Memorial Baptist, I realize that God is always opening up opportunities to connect with people, to see our neighbors and to come alongside one another to experience God’s Kingdom. Philip wasn’t headed out on his own, looking for someone to preach to when God brought him into conversation with the Ethiopian riding down the road from Jerusalem to Gaza (Acts 8), or when Cornelius’ servants came knocking on Peter’s door (Acts 10). Often God has already opened up things right in front of us if we have our eyes open and make ourselves available. One story that I’ll be writing up soon is of a church near a college campus which realized that its neighborhood was changing; many of the homes were being rented to college students, many of whom were struggling to make ends meet (or living on the traditional diet of ramen and hot dogs…). When this church realized this, they saw an opportunity to connect and create community right around them.
It doesn’t matter how old or young we are, how physically fit or socially outgoing we may be; God can use us to touch someone else’s life, and help us grow and be blessed in the process. Will we make ourselves available to God, and will we keep our eyes open for opportunities and connections all around us?
Blessings on the Journey,