Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Anchor Through My Eyes

As a pastor, as part of Anchor, who are we becoming, what ought to be true of us?

Anchor is located ten blocks north of Main Street. We're another ten blocks west of downtown. Our location impresses upon us the crucial need for urban renewal, for the integration of urban and suburban communities, for the collaboration of resources for the prosperity of the city. 

Because of the affordability of housing in Anchor's neighborhood, there is a high percentage of families with someone involved in the court or prison system. The effects of inadequate education and vocational training, the lack of character formation and social responsibility, the breakdown of families, the absence of fathers, and ineffectiveness of churches are keenly felt. 

Addictions, adultery, apathy, abuse, anger - all universal in their scope, seem to have a concentrated and blatant reign in our neighborhood. What would it take to help our neighborhood and city become a better place to live? 

Love God. Love Your Neighbor. Be the Anchor. 

Loving God and loving our neighbor is intertwined. So we must help each other - as individuals and as a community of believers - love our neighbors as an expression of our love for God, and love God as an expression of our love for our neighbors.

This takes theological reflection, spiritual introspection, and practical application. The pursuit of this reality changes who we are, who we are becoming. And it changes the communities that we part of, building a certain kind of momentum leading to a critical mass for renewal or transformation. 

Anchor is a both a community of believers and an organization of servants. We are believers wherever we go - at home, at school, at work - but we gather as believers once a week. We are servants wherever we go as well, but we organize in order to do more together then we could on our own. Our community and organization help produce a koinonia that cares for one another and those in our neighborhood and city. 

Loving our neighbor has a definite social and economic reality to it. Love for neighbor is often expressed to those in need - to those we know and to those we see. Thus we are learning how to best help, how not to enable, how to develop towards maturity rather then reinforce poverty of mind and heart. 

If our love for our neighbor is rooted in our love for God and the good news of Jesus, we have to think incarnationally. How do we enter into the world of those who do not yet love God or their neighbor and help bring the light and way of Jesus? Our incarnational ministry focuses on meeting people where they are at and helping them learn how to take their next steps with Jesus. 

Anchor is Jesus centered. We worship as a way to express to Jesus gratitude and our need for help. We study the Scriptures to know and understand what Jesus has already instructed and commanded. We gather to encourage each other and spur one another on towards good works of love for God and our neighbor.

Anchor thinks about it's influence on the city. What the city cares about, Anchor must learn to care about. In figuring out how to be good news to our community, we must discern what is the bad news, and be participants in helping. But Anchor's motivation for caring about the city, about our neighbors, about the problems of our culture is rooted in the commands and commission of Jesus.

In entering into our culture and society, we take into account those forces that powerfully shape our lives and values, our worldviews and presuppositions. In immersing ourselves in the way of Jesus, and learning about the world we live in, we better understand and can more wisely live out the Good News of God. This can have restorative power for cities and corporations, educational and health organizations, for institutions and neighborhoods.

This requires working with a wide variety  of Christians and leaders in the city, to collaborate with like-minded activists for accomplishing together what none of us can do alone. It also requires Christians bringing Christ into their workplace, into their vocations and letting Jesus shape careers, influencing how you use your skills and knowledge for good in light of community and cultural problems.

All of this hinges on the ability of the pastor and church leadership to foster a healthy community of believers and a productive organization of servants. This requires paying attention to congregational details about spiritual realities, relational needs, economic challenges, racial tensions, gender inequality, and socioeconomic factors.

It also is necessary to improve management skills to fruitfully train and empower for rewarding service. In serving one another in the congregation as well as in the realms of school, work and home, there is a need for effective administration and management to help support inspiring worship, effective small groups, helpful ministries, fruitful evangelism and discipleship. A church that can live out this dual role as community and organization will be a powerful catalyst for the neighborhood and city.

The temptation is to reduce the gospel to a tool for getting into heaven when you die. But a steady immersion in the Gospel of Jesus will reveal an obvious expectation for disciples: repent of sins, forgive those who sin against you, love as demonstrated by Jesus, join the ministry of reconciliation, be a blessing, heal in the name of Jesus, rescue the lost, pray for God's will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Following Jesus is about what God wants to do on Earth now. The heavenly reward is connected to our faith on Earth - and faith without good works is dead. But a trust in Jesus that produces good works as a blessing to our communities and culture - well this becomes an answer to the Lord's Prayer.

1 comment:

zachprater said...

I like the alliteration: Addictions, adultery, apathy, abuse, anger