Better together

Mission Proximity Principle
Avatar photo Tom Grant
6th June 2024 3 minute read
People talking around a table having cups of tea

We arrived on our estate full of both enthusiasm and great ideas to bless our community. We soon twigged, however, that we would require an army of volunteers to make it happen. Whilst there were a few members of the congregation who were ready and willing to get involved, the church had been through a tough time, this combined with years of activity, had resulted in many tired people.

We started some initiatives with a few people from within the church but soon found that we too quickly became tired and overwhelmed. As our small number of volunteers dwindled, we wondered how we would keep on going. 
  
Meanwhile, we saw people in our community, who didn’t attend church, begin to pitch in. They’d seen our attempts to meet needs on the estate and were drawn to help. At first, I wanted to resist their support as I believed the volunteers should be made up of Christians. Now I see this was God’s answer to our tired and depleted team, as people from our estate began to help run some of the church activities.  

At the time it was difficult to become a church volunteer. You would need to demonstrate longstanding attendance and impeccable manners just to join the tea and coffee rota! 

To my great surprise, however, we found that some of these new volunteers became Christians. As we shared life and served our community together, people met with Christ. As they began to participate in the mission of God, they met with the God of mission. 

Ann Morisy, in her book, ‘Beyond the Good Samaritan’, argues that by offering opportunities for people from our community to serve those around them we, “increase the possibility of encounter with Jesus.” Jesus tells us in the parable of the sheep and the goats that when we minister to those who are experiencing hardship we minister to him. We saw this was true even for those who would not yet call themselves Christians, but who met with Jesus as they cared for others. 

Since then, I have seen God work in this way time and time again, and our mode for our mission has become what we do ‘with’ our community rather than ‘to’ our community. 

Jesus said the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. I’ve felt this and prayed many times for more Christians to come and join our estate. I’ve learned the answer to these prayers are not found outside our community but from within. To offer those already living in our neighbourhood an invitation to serve. Those not currently, but soon to be, in the church. As we join in this great gospel work together, we both encounter Christ in the faces of those we serve.

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