Sitting in my office, I can watch the people come and go to the small food bank operated by Christ Church UMC in Tucson. I can’t help but wonder how successful we are at sharing life with the people we are trying to help, or at least sharing church with them. I am not minimizing our desire to be of service, nor the actual assistance provided. A full belly matters a great deal to someone who is desperately poor. I’m just pretty sure that what we’re doing isn’t what Jesus has in mind at all.
We can search throughout the gospel stories, but we will never find Jesus or his disciples setting up distribution centers. Instead, what we will find are stories of their breaking bread with others, only some of which they may have provided. The provision shared is an act of community building, and the providing of food secondary to the connection and relationship of two or more human beings.
Immersion mission trips can result in sharing life, but usually only on a very temporary basis. With the poor and needy in our own cities and communities, we rarely get far into the life sharing so prevalent in the gospel. There are some notable exceptions shining out there. There are the New Day communities (peopleofnewday.com) connected to Perkins School of Theology in Dallas. There’s the Church for all People (4allpeople.com) in Columbus, Ohio. There’s the many campuses of Grace Church (egracechurch.com) in Florida. My sense is, though, there could be so many more.
“We’re just trying to share life with them” characterizes the younger generations’ idea of mission. There is no question that the church of tomorrow will be known by its ability to share life across the spectrum. How close does your own faith community’s mission work share life with the people they are trying to reach?