Walking in proximity

‘If you want to walk fast, walk alone. But if you want to walk far, walk together,’ so the saying goes. Proximity’s Tom Grant reflects on the importance of having support around you. Moses needed mates to hold his arms up, and so do you. Tom asks, who are those friends who ‘get’ urban ministry that will offer support when you’re flagging? 

Proximity Principle
Avatar photo Tom Grant
12th June 2024 3 minute read
A family with 3 young children stand and smile

It has been an absolute privilege to have spent the last ten years living on an estate in north Liverpool, with my wife and our three children. During this time it has often felt like we have had a front row seat to the beautiful kingdom work that God is doing here. A decade in and I have never been more persuaded of the importance of urban ministry. I grow increasingly convinced that it is when Christians choose to invest their lives in the most under-resourced communities that we will see the renewal of the church.

But if I am completely honest, I have to acknowledge, that at times, being involve in this ministry has felt incredibly lonely and hard. Christian friends don’t seem to understand the issues we have faced. When I have shared our challenges with other church leaders they have looked at me as if I was from another planet! The work we are doing in our community feels painfully fragile also. I have found myself remarking on numerous occasions how it feels that we are both days away from revival and days away from closing the doors of our church building forever.

In Exodus 17, when the Israelites are attacked by the Amalekites, Joshua leads the people into battle. Moses observes the fighting from on top of a nearby hill and discovers that while he holds his hands aloft, the Israelites are winning the battle, but that when he tires and his arms lower, the Amalekites hold the advantage. It is with this realisation that Moses’ mates, Aaron and Hur, grab his arms, holding them aloft, so that the Israelites can win the victory.

I am so thankful that in tough times on my estate this has been my experience. In moments where I have felt tired, defeated and ready to give up it has been the support of my mates who ‘get it’ which has kept me going. It has been these precious moments of friendship, with others involved in urban ministry, which has enabled me to see victories in my community. As much as I have benefitted from this encouragement and have attempted to offer it to others, I am painfully aware that not everyone has access to it. I have met many people working hard in their communities, heroes of the faith, like Moses, who are tired, isolated and burnt out.

It is then, crucial, that those of us ministering in estates seek out those who can walk in proximity with us throughout our ministry. Who can sit with us when we are ready to do a runner. Who understand the challenges we are facing and have managed to overcome them themselves. Who can stand alongside us, holding us up when we are about to give up. Friendships that can sustain us in the places that God has called us to.

This is especially important for those of us based in urban contexts because I am also increasingly convinced that ministry for the long haul is essential for effective estate ministry. I know the best victories we have experienced didn’t come in the early days in our community, but have come in these later years when we have grown to know and love the people around us and they have grown to know and love us too. We must then seek out and invest in relationships with others who understand urban ministry, who can journey with us for the long term, so we get to see God’s victory in our communities.

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