Can We Have a Conversation?

In ministry to the poor, I often feel lonely. I’m guessing others in this ministry feel the same way.

We come to Christ at some point in our lives, read the gospels, and draw the conclusion: I think Jesus wants me to care for the poor. 

Then we show up in a poor neighborhood and immediately ask the question, “Where is everybody?”

More clearly put, the number of professing Christians is incongruent with the number of people reaching out to the poor and marginalized.

When this reality sinks in, I throw myself a pity party. Kind of like Elijah in the book of 1 Kings, when he believes himself to be God’s only remaining prophet.

And like Elijah’s moment of doubt, God gently reminds me that I’m not alone, not even close.

I spent this past weekend attending four separate gatherings of men and women who are giving their time and energy to the poor, marginalized, and outcast. One of these gatherings was quite large. It included a speech from a state governor who challenged his listeners to stop ignoring the most vulnerable populations of their communities and take action.

Of all the events I attended, however, my favorite was on Saturday. There was no government official, no local news crews. Just a couple dozen Christians having a conversation about how to love the poor.

While it doesn’t sound glamorous, it was powerful. Here’s why:

The meeting was a direct answer to prayer.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus travels around healing diseases and proclaiming the kingdom. He notices how the population around him is helpless and harassed, like sheep without a shepherd.

But he doesn’t retreat into a corner to feel sorry for himself, or try to do all the work on his own. Instead, he tells his few followers to plead with God to send more workers.

Years ago, when my co-workers and I felt isolated and forgotten, we begged God to send more workers.

The meeting this past Saturday was his response. Two dozen Christians representing six churches gathered in unity to see how God might use us to love the poor and marginalized of our community

And this gathering was only the beginning. God is up to something big. He is opening the eyes of his people. He’s bringing them together to have a conversation that revolves around one question:

How can we best love people?

That’s pretty cool.

My hope today is that you, too, will start a conversation. You don’t need your church’s permission, just do it.

Don’t wait for an elected official to sort out the complexities of poverty.

Don’t wait for your taxes to produce better schools.

Don’t wait for your preacher to tell you to do it.

Instead, read the gospel of Luke. Then call up a Christian brother or sister and say, “Hey, Jesus has a heart for the poor, let’s pray that he gives us one too.”

I bet he’ll answer that prayer.

And then you’ll become an answer to the prayer of so many, who are desperate for more workers in the harvest.

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2 thoughts on “Can We Have a Conversation?

  1. Preston,

    I will respond to this post at two levels.

    1) to answer your question: Yes. I want to have a conversation. In fact I purposefully engage this blog with comments in an attempt to converse all the time. I ask questions on a recent post, hoping either you, the writer, or other readers will engage them.

    I fully recognize that conversing can mean a clash of ideas which might prove discomforting. I am willing to face that with respect if respect is returned too. I sense this blog is very thoughtful, insightful, meaningful and I respect it deeply.

    I also recognize that creating my own posts on my own blog functions as a conversation of sorts. That in some ways, my blog and yours together contribute to a larger conversation that we don’t directly engage with one another. And I value that. But I hope for more.

    2) I know that feeling of aloneness that you link to Elijah’s experience. In fact, there is a strong element of that running all through my blog. However, it did not come about by accident or by being ignored, but through conflict. I know that I am asking you to trust me, though you don’t know me, when I say that I confronted my original conflict(s) respectfully and by going through proper channels. AND that it did not work to do that. The conversation broke down early on and did so on multiple fronts.

    It is fair to ask if I (and by that I mean particularly my way of relating with others) is the common denominator causing the friction rather than that of others. After all, it is really easy to blame others for one’s own problems. And I am not immune to that problem at all. However, I suggest, and after so much marginalization from established quarters, that something in our culture is sick and pretty much all, or most, of those I have conflict with, are part of that problem rather than the (or a) solution.

    This has made conversation very difficult on the one hand, and is the demon that causes the loneliness on the other.

    That said, I am not entirely alone. I do have a few conversation partners here and there, but not with anywhere near the regular engagement I would wish for.

    With those things said, I want to reiterate that I deeply respect and appreciate this blog and the ministry portrayed here. I am richly blessed by nearly every post you publish. Thank you!

    X

  2. Thanks for the replies, Agent X.

    I’ve often wrestled through the conflict, wondering if I’m more causing it than simply experiencing it. Like you said, we are usually the common denominator.

    It’s certainly difficult to engage, daily, with men and women who are skirting the edge of total self-destruction. It reveals something about grace. For me, I see my own sin revealed. The ground is certainly more level than I ever thought.

    God bless,
    Preston

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