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Monday, June 10, 2013

Pastorgraphs: “A Messy Job, But Somebody Has to Do It”

E-Vangel Newsletter
June 10, 2013

Pastorgraphs: “A Messy Job, But Somebody Has to Do It”

A few friends and colleagues suggested some time ago that I write a book on urban ministry, detailing “the formula” we are using at Christ Ministry Center so other urban churches might consider our model as an alternative to closing their doors.

Asking me to write anything is like saying “sic um” to a bulldog. And the foundation of Matthew 25:35 provides a well-ordered outline: One chapter on feeding the poor, another on clothing the naked, and so on with ministering to the sick, prisoners, strangers, etc. But I resisted the compulsion to write anything on this subject until I had a lot more experience. And I’m glad, because I now know there should be another chapter anyone considering urban ministry must read. That is the chapter about criticism.

If anyone thinks doing the work of God in the concrete city is criticism-free, please refer back to Jesus’ experience. He was criticized at every turn, often from both sides. If he healed someone, the authorities nitpicked about when and where he did it, and the others complained that they did not get healed.

And make no mistake about it, many were not just trying to win an argument with Jesus: they meant to silence and neutralize him, even if it meant a cross.

Mark Stowers wrote an article for the Jackson MS Clarion-Ledger this weekend that asked if Jesus came to Jackson, where would he go? Mark suggested Jesus would show up at the Gateway Rescue Mission, the sort of place most “decent folk” try to avoid. It’s an urban ministry where helping the helpless gets down and dirty, just like Jesus did on the streets of Jerusalem 2000 years ago.

Rex Baker began volunteering at Gateway 15 years ago. He fell in love with this “messy ministry”, gave up a promising career in broadcast journalism, and now serves as executive director of Gateway’s 27 employees and six centers covering three counties in metro Jackson.

Rex hit the nail on the head:

“Rescue mission life is real life played out in real time. We deal with broken people in all their messiness, and we reap the joy of seeing God work miracles. Gateway Rescue Mission is a place where fallen people minister a perfect Gospel to other fallen people.”

“I like to think that if Jesus physically showed up in Jackson, Mississippi, He’d drop by Gateway Rescue Mission. Why? Because Jesus had this thing about hanging out with the wrong crowd. He associated with corrupt tax collectors, loose women, lepers...even Samaritans. He regularly shot off His mouth at the religious establishment. So yes, I think Jesus just might show up today at a crack house, have dinner with a leading drug dealer, or visit a rescue mission.”

“If Jesus would do this, what should we do if we claim to be like Him? I’m far from perfect and fail daily in my feeble attempts to be like Christ. But I can read, and therefore know that Jesus says ‘as much as you’ve done it unto the least of these brothers of Mine, you’ve done it unto Me.’"

“That’s what we do at Gateway Rescue Mission. We feed hungry people, shelter the homeless, and work to restore the broken and addicted through the love of Christ. It’s our calling as an organization. It’s why we exist. We have staff who labor outside the spotlight because it’s their calling in life.”

So for anyone considering urban ministry, be forewarned: It takes some thick skin to do this kind of ministry. You will receive a lot more criticism than praise. And not everyone has your best intentions in mind. Just ask Mother Teresa or anyone else (like Rex) who deal with broken people in all their messiness and brokenness. The neighbors will not appreciate it, the critics will test your soul. Be prepared, and remember what God told Moses about the grumblers and gripers: “Who are we in all this? You haven’t been complaining to us—you’ve been complaining to God!” (Exodus 16:8)

I would like to think if Jesus came to San Diego, he would hang out at Christ Ministry Center.

Bless you all, Bill Jenkins

From the Quote Garden:
“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
~ Matthew 5:11-12 ~
(King James Version)

Christ United Methodist Ministry Center
“Christ in the Heart of San Diego”
3295 Meade Avenue - San Diego, CA 92116 - (619) 284-9205

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