Blending the Compassionate Works and Words of the Gospel in Your Local Context
Shortly after the Campus Ministry responded to the South Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, Cru leadership decided to become more intentional about weaving the compassionate works and words of the gospel into the USCM. Since that time, many Cru staff and students have blended good news and good deeds (or evangelism and social justice) together in various ways in their local context.
But it’s not always easy.
Perhaps you can relate to these comments by Cru staff members:
“I think that justification and justice are joined at the hip and yet… in Christianity today, it seems like you are either passionate about evangelism or doing justice. I desire to be a part of both… I honestly get confused on how to build movements that incorporate both.”
“As a Cru student and now as a staff member, I have often felt stifled in my concern for justice, specifically caring for widows, orphans, immigrants, and the poor. There is a tension between my heart for justice and my heart for our mission and vision of winning, building, and sending college students.”
“I think our justice components should compliment our calling to students and faculty. Sometimes that’s difficult because we tend to work with the most privileged.”
Comments like these reflect the challenge of holding things crucial to Biblical Christianity in proper tension. It’s difficult to do in our own lives and certainly in our local ministry efforts. Thus, we often opt for something simpler, which is to gravitate toward one side or the other of the following “tension-producing ” categories.
• Evangelism/discipleship vs social justice (or, more simply, justification vs justice)
• Personal salvation/individual growth vs transforming society and culture
• Reaching leaders and influencers vs caring for the widow, orphan, poor, and oppressed
• Organizational call vs personal passions for “the least of these”
How do we keep these things (that seem to conflict or compete with one another) in proper tension?
In many areas of life, holding things in proper tension is inherent in the way God made the world and crucial for following Christ. To understand Scripture and live the Christian life, we must wrestle, for example, with God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, God’s love and evil and suffering in the world, our own growth and the needs of others, etc. It’s a challenge to hold things in tension, but there’s 40,000 pounds of tension in a properly tuned piano – and it’s the tension that allows a well-trained pianist to produce beautiful music. So it is in life and ministry. When we learn to hold in proper tension…justice and justification, reaching leaders and the poor, organizational call and personal passion, and a host of other things, we can produce beautiful music in the Kingdom of Christ.
In the following, you’ll find some practical ways to face the apparent tension between these categories. Cru movements can weave evangelism and social justice together – and create a compelling blend of passionate proclamation and compassionate demonstration of the gospel – if we will:
• Sharpen Our Theology of Blending the Works and Words of the Gospel
• Cultivate a Biblical Vision for Blending the Works and Words of the Gospel
• Fan the Flame of Passion for the Works and the Words of the Gospel
• Develop Strategies and Methods for Blending the Works and Words of the Gospel
• Train and Equip for Blending the Works and Words of the Gospel
SHARPEN OUR THEOLOGY OF BLENDING THE WORKS AND WORDS OF THE GOSPEL
When it comes to blending passionate proclamation and compassionate demonstration of the gospel, there are a series of battles to face. For starters, Satan will oppose us because he hates bold and clear proclamation of gospel truth. He also hates sacrificial service and justice initiatives that free those under his cruel schemes of oppression. We’ll also face “compassion fatigue” whenever we wade into the complexities of helping those in deep brokenness, especially the widow, the orphan, the alien, and the poor.
Our theology provides a foundation to fight these practical battles. Whatever the challenges of blending the works and words of the gospel, the Spirit of God uses a clear Biblical understanding of the issues and deep convictions shaped by God’s Word to keep us moving forward. The Scriptures face the apparent tensions head-on and help us creatively resolve those tensions. The Scriptures literally equip us for every good work (II Tim. 3:17). In Appendix 1, we’ve listed key passages of Scripture, articles, messages, books, and Bible studies for you to choose from as you develop your own understanding, convictions, and ministry philosophy.
You will find that the Scriptures teach us to talk about the greatness of our God; to verbally proclaim the excellencies of His character (I Peter 2:9-10); to announce His saving power for all peoples (Psalm 67); and to rejoice in our firm hope that He will redeem the human race and restore everything that was lost in the Fall (Romans 8:18-25). The Scriptures also teach us that God is filled with compassion, is Himself “the father of the fatherless,” and holds his people to a unique accountability to care for the widow, orphan, alien, and poor (Isaiah 58; Matt. 25:31ff). When Jesus breaks into human history with incomprehensible grace and mercy, He redeems a people for Himself, and so captivates their hearts that they have to speak of His great love (Col. 1:28-29) – and they’re so overwhelmed with His mercy that they want to extend mercy to those most in need (Titus 2:11-14).
CULTIVATE A BIBLICAL VISION FOR BLENDING THE WORKS AND WORDS OF THE GOSPEL
Growing numbers of Cru MTLs are finding ways to cast vision for blending the works and words of the gospel, helping staff, students, and faculty see how evangelism and social justice fit together. For example, Ryan Berg (Cincinnati Metro MTL) invites faculty and students to join in God’s story through “The E3 Challenge.” E3 reflects Cru’s rich history, vision, and mission while showing where the Biblical mandates to care for the widow, orphan, poor, and oppressed fit into making disciples among students and faculty. Built around three E’s, Ryan and his team invite faculty, students, and volunteers to:
Embrace the Gospel Personally: An honest recognition of personal sin and a genuine celebration of Christ’s grace to us in the midst of it. We never move beyond the Gospel, only into a more profound understanding.
Experience the Gospel Together: Seeking to engage in authentic community without masks by moving forward together.
Extend the Gospel to Others:
- Displaying it by being who God has called us to be—people of Christ-like character.
- Demonstrating it by doing what God has called us to do—entering into the needs of others: physically, emotionally, relationally, etc.
- Declaring it by saying what God has called us to say—sharing the good news of Christ’s cross and empty tomb and the wonderful implications of both.
For more, read Joining In God’s Story (crupressgreen.com/joining-in-gods-story)
A Biblical vision for blending proclamation and demonstration of the gospel has led to many Cru movements into natural ways of partnering with their university to relieve suffering in the world, launch new movements, and increase impact. For example:
• The Cru movement at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo created a service project for the entire university.
• Appalachian State Cru created a way for the entire campus to respond to the Japan tsunami.
• The Denver Metro team has found a way to tap into some of the potential of a Jesuit university to help relieve suffering in Calcutta, India. (All three stories are below.)
Regardless of how we conceptualize our local movement, summer project, or whatever we’re leading—or what kind of language we use—weaving the works and words of the gospel starts with integrated thinking and vision, and our ability to communicate that vision.
- Think in terms of blending good news and good deeds, weaving passionate proclamation and compassionate demonstration of the gospel, combining evangelism and social justice.
- Develop a vision for your movements where win, build, send efforts change lives in your context and connect with the brokenness on campus and in the broader world.
- Then make plans and cast vision for students and faculty to let the gospel do its work of changing their hearts and setting things right in a broken world.
You’ll find resources for clarifying your vision in Appendix 2.
FAN THE FLAME OF PASSION FOR THE WORKS AND WORDS OF THE GOSPEL
A big vision to see everyone and everything brought under the loving reign of Jesus—and blending our God-given passions with Cru’s mission—are crucial to keep personal passion aflame for a lifetime. We’ve found that stories fuel passion. We’re including just a few of the many examples of Cru teams successfully blending personal passion for the widow, orphan, poor, and oppressed with their heart for reaching and discipling college students and professors.
The San Francisco Metro team partnered with the Christian Alliance for Orphans to create an Orphan Scholarship Fund (OSF), in order to raise funds to send three Honduran orphans to college. One objective of the OSF was to develop relationships with those student populations the movement did not currently have a connection with. As word got out on campus about the OSF, the student leader of an organization committed to an alternative lifestyle approached our staff with a desire to help raise the necessary funds. Through the care exhibited by Cru for the marginalized as well as for others in the San Francisco community, members of this student’s organization felt safe to express their desire to follow God. One member directly told a Cru staff member “I’m desperately seeking God,” while the student leader himself later confessed his interest in the OSF “was driven by a desire to see what faith in Jesus could look like for him.” Also, the combined efforts of several diverse partners in San Francisco raised more than enough money for the three Honduran orphans to go to college. The Cru movement also saw a Honduran-born student nominally involved in Cru gain such a heart for reaching other Latinos that she launched a Destino movement in San Francisco.
Colorado State University hosted its second “Justice Week” during the spring of 2012. Students did a variety of things to raise awareness of slavery, trafficking, and other forms of oppression around the world. Because issues like human trafficking tend to push superficial matters from the minds of students and make room for serious conversations about the realities of life, CSU students were very open to spiritual conversations. Danny, a Muslim student from Dubai, entered into a great spiritual conversation with a Cru staff member about his concern to end oppression in the world. A unique connection occurred when Danny realized that he and Christians involved with Cru actually shared a common concern for the oppressed. During the week, Cru students used Soularium™ cards with a set of “justice questions” to share Christ with hundreds of CSU students. The event also helped solidify CSU Cru’s partnership with International Justice Mission on campus by giving Cru an opportunity to link hand-in-hand with IJM student leaders, and not minimize their efforts or spiritual calling. (CSU Justice Week video: http://crupressgreen.com/videos/csu-justice-week/.)
The Cru team at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo partnered with Feed My Starving Children to create a service opportunity for the entire campus. The primary purpose was to share the experience of sacrificial living with Greek students and give them a philanthropy opportunity. The vision was to pack thousands of meals for hungry children and cultivate a greater connection to the Greek system. Over the two-day event, 1558 volunteers packed 200,232 meals that will help feed 550 children for a year. In addition, the event opened doors of cooperation between Cru and Cal Poly Greek Life. Greek Life leaders actually asked Cru staff to lead Bible studies in the fraternities and sororities and to plan more events together for the future. MTL Jamey Pappas met with the Student Community Services director afterwards, who indicated he would like to partner in the future as well. According to Jamie, the event also “really changed the perception of Cru at Cal Poly which, for some, was negative and uninformed.” (Video at http://crupressgreen.com/videos/slo-meal-packing/.)
The Cincinnati Metro ministry partners with India Cru to launch new movements on university campuses in Mumbai. Cinci Metro also partners with The Aruna Project, a small ministry caring for women and children who have been freed from prostitution and trafficking. Every year, Cinci Metro hosts an “Aruna 5K” race to raise money for the Aruna project. Emails from Ryan Berg, MTL in Cincinnati, demonstrate that Ryan and his wife have found a way to simultaneously live out their passion for trafficking victims and accelerate the ministry in Cincinnati.
After the first Aruna 5K in April 2009: “We were able to engage certain groups on campus that we would never have been able to before. We had a number of atheist and agnostic students join in the event that would never come to a Cru meeting. In total we had about 200-225 people involved (as a 2 1/2-year old movement, we only have about 70 students involved, so the turnout was awesome.) The greater joy: we were able to raise close to $9,000 which will go directly to the Aruna Project in Mumbai to help rescue women and children out of the sexual slave trade. Awesome stuff.”
After the April 2011 Aruna 5K: “Our Aruna 5K had close to 1200 people involved (online financial sponsors, participants, and volunteers). We saw about $27,000 raised. Some fun conversations as well. Good news, good deeds… Good stuff.” (Aruna minidocumentary: http://crupressgreen.com/action/.)
DEVELOP STRATEGIES AND METHODS FOR BLENDING THE WORKS AND WORDS OF THE GOSPEL
The Scriptures teach that God has uniquely and intentionally designed the DNA structure of every one of us (Psalm 139), has intentionally orchestrated our every circumstance to shape us according to His will (Rom. 8:28-30), has specifically gifted us according to His wisdom (Eph. 4:1-8), and has created a set of good works for us to walk in (Eph. 2:10). This all points to the thrilling prospect of sinful humans like us, having been redeemed by the blood of Christ, now able to participate with God in redeeming humanity and restoring all that is broken in the world. If we apply these great truths to our Cru movements— as well as to our own lives—it precipitates some great questions, like:
• How has God intentionally designed and gifted our staff team and movement?
• What good works has God prepared for us – locally and globally – to walk in?
• What does God want us to help set right in Jesus’ Name?
• Where can we uniquely help bring Kingdom change to broken places and systems?
• And where are the connections to “win, build, send” ministry among students and faculty?
To answer these questions well, we need good theology, clear vision, enflamed passions, and we need strategies, training and materials. We’ve begun putting together a list of major Campus Ministry partners for evangelism and social justice; stories of Cru movements successfully blending evangelism and social justice; and also some methods, resources, tools to help you blend gospel proclamation and demonstration. Visit http://crupressgreen.com/action/ to see these growing resources.
But this is only the beginning. God is continually writing the story of how He is using His people to expand the loving reign and rule of Jesus over people, families, communities, and even over broken places and systems in the world. Through His life, atoning death, and resurrection, Jesus began the redemption of humanity and the restoration of all creation. Through His people, Jesus is continuing to redeem and restore. And when He returns, Jesus will completely redeem ALL of His people and set ALL things right.
LASTLY, TRAIN AND EQUIP FOR BLENDING THE WORKS AND WORDS OF THE GOSPEL
Even though high school football was a long time ago for me, I still have a vivid memory. I intercepted a pass and ran through the entire opposing team, all the way to the two-yard line. I got so excited about scoring that I fumbled the football into mid-air and missed my chance to score a touchdown. How embarrassing!
If we develop a good theology of movements that blend the works and words of the gospel, cast vision, fan into flame a passion for building such movements, and even identify the strategies, tools, and materials we need – but don’t train and equip others to use them – it’s like fumbling on the two-yard line. We miss great opportunities. We need tools, and we need to teach people to use them well. You’ll find the following tools – and more – at crupressgreen.com/action. (If you have resources to share, please send them to Neil.Downey@cru.org.)
“The Christian and Good Deeds” (Student Bible study)
“Misunderstood” (Sharing the gospel to explain good deeds)
“The Gospel – Key to Change” (Tim Keller article )
“The Cosmic Code” (Gospel conversation guide)
“Perspective” (a very relational way to engage people in gospel conversations)
ALL FOR THE GLORY OF GOD
Jesus alone satisfies the deepest longings of the human heart. He alone can rescue and save. There is salvation—in its fullest sense of the word—for individuals and for the entire human race, only in Jesus’ Name. By God’s great grace, let us build movements of professors and students who disciple leaders and influencers, gather orphans into loving arms, happily sacrifice time to tutor at-risk children, work tirelessly to help rescue minors trapped in the sex trade, and give their lives to loose the chains of injustice and bind up the broken-hearted in Jesus’ Name—all the while employing words to point to His supremacy and sufficiency, proclaim His excellencies, and explain the saving power of His character, atoning death, and resurrection life. Always, our hope is for the glory of God. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16)
APPENDIX 1: PERSONAL UNDERSTANDING, CONVICTIONS, AND PHILOSOPHY
Key Passages about Declaring and Demonstrating Gospel Truth
There’s a host of Old Testament passages that teach us to proclaim the excellencies of our great God and Savior, and to show compassion for—or seek justice on behalf of—the widow, orphan, alien, and poor. For instance, Old Testament writers, especially the Psalmists, repeatedly exhort us to “tell of the wondrous works of God” (e.g. Ps. 145) so that his ways “may be known on earth, [his] saving power among all nations” (Ps. 67:2). At the same time, Moses, the Prophets, and the Poets also repeatedly exhort us to show compassion for the poor and oppressed—to “loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free…to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house…” (Isaiah 58:6)—because God Himself “executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing” (Dt. 10:18).
Some key OT passages re: proclaiming God’s greatness: Deut. 32; Psalm 67; Isaiah 40:9
Some key OT passages re: showing God’s compassion for the widow, orphan, alien, and poor: Ex. 22:21-27; 23:1-9; Lev. 19:9-18; 25:35; Psalm 41:1; 68:5,6; Prov. 3:28; 14:31; 19:17; Isaiah 58:1-12; 61:1-6; 65:17-25; Jer. 22:16; 29:4-7; Ez. 16:49-50; Micah 6:8)
When we come to the New Testament and observe the life of Jesus, it’s obvious that He was continually proclaiming the Kingdom, teaching people the liberating truth and wisdom of God, and bringing help and healing to the hungry, paralyzed, leprous, lame, deaf, mute, blind, demon-possessed, and brokenhearted; and new life to those in the grip of death (Eg. Mt. 4:23 and 9:35). And, of course, the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ take up a major section of all four gospels—for it is the perfectly righteous life of Jesus, his death, resurrection, and ascension that form the foundation for the redemption of the human race and for the restoration of all creation. (Key passages re: the work of Christ to redeem humanity and restore all of creation: Acts 3:1-26; Romans 8:18-25; Eph. 1:3-10; Col. 1:15-20; Rev. 21:1-27.)
Following their Master, believers in the book of Acts prayed for boldness to speak the word of God, even in the face of opposition, and for power to heal—and God answered their prayers in a big way! Jesus had inaugurated a new Kingdom, and the signs (or “previews”) of that Kingdom began to show up in the midst of—and all around—the newly founded Church of Jesus Christ. Joyful worship, hunger for God’s Word, faith-filled prayer, meaningful fellowship, sacrificial sharing of material goods, explosive growth (Acts 2:42-47; 3:23-37); bold proclamation (Acts 2:14-41; 4:29-31); the lame “walking and leaping” (e.g. Acts 3:1-26; cf. Isa. 35:6); care for the vulnerable (Acts 6:1-7); the “nations” gathered in through gospel proclamation (Acts 8:26-40; 10 & 11); and sacrificial giving in the face of famine (Acts 11:27-30) all revealed new life in Christ, a new community of faith, and a new Kingdom where the King uses His people to begin His long-intended redemption of the human race and the restoration of a broken world.
The Apostle Paul is known for his zeal to preach the gospel (Acts 20:25; Rom. 15:20-21), and by his own testimony, was “eager” to care for the poor (Gal. 2:10). Paul also continually reminds his young protégés Timothy and Titus to teach sound doctrine (the gospel) and to cultivate zeal for good works in the people of God. For example, Paul wrote to Titus:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 (cf. 3:4-8)
Likewise, the Apostle Peter taught believers scattered all over the known world that the Christian gospel is:
Personal – The gospel saves individuals, causing them to be “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” and guaranteeing them an “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1:3-5). But it is also…
Communal, Cultural, and Transformational – The gospel creates a new community with a new culture that is different from the prevailing culture and has a transforming effect on it through good deeds (2:1-12). This culture is characterized by personal purity; by sincere, earnest, and pure love toward believers; and by good deeds for the lost, even those who persecute us (1:13-25; 2:12; 2:15; 3:9, 13-17; 4:19). (N.b. Drawn from Tim Keller’s “Gospel Centered Ministry,” listed in following section of resources.)
In summary, the Scriptures teach us to proclaim the greatness of God, the excellencies of His character, His saving power for all peoples, and to rejoice in our firm hope that He will redeem the human race and restore everything in all creation that was lost in the Fall. The Scriptures also teach us that God is filled with compassion, is Himself “the father of the fatherless,” and holds His people to a unique accountability to care for the widow, orphan, alien, and poor. When Jesus breaks into human history, with incomprehensible grace and mercy, he redeems a people and so captivates their hearts that they have to speak of His great love, and they’re so overwhelmed with His mercy that they want to extend mercy to those most in need.
Resources for sharpening your theology of evangelism and social justice (all at crupressgreen/action unless otherwise listed):
“The Gospel – Key to Change” Tim Keller
“Why the Rising Social Awareness in the Church Should Encourage Us,” Justin Holcomb
“A Mighty River or a Slippery Slope?” Mark Labberton. Examining the cultural and theological forces behind the new interest in justice.
“Lausanne: Evangelism and Social Responsibility: An Evangelical Commitment”
“Converted to the Kingdom: Social Action Among College Students Today “ by Evan Hunter
“Gospel Centered Ministry” by Tim Keller
Video or Audio Messages:
“The Both/And of the Gospel” (Tim Keller)
Bill Hybels’ interview with Bono (Willow Creek Leadership Summit)
Series on Mercy and Justice (Redeemer Presbyterian Church):
The Gospel and the Poor: A Case for Compassion (Tim Keller)
Poverty, Charity & Justice in the Early Church (John Dickson)
Gospel Centered Ministry (Tim Keller)
Generous Justice by Tim Keller
The Externally Focused Church by Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson
Unfashionable by Tullian Tchividijian
Good News About Injustice by Gary Haugen
Charity and Its Fruits by Jonathan Edwards
The Christian and Good Deeds (Bible study developed by Cru staff member Andy Swanson)
The Faith Effect: God’s love in the world
Micah Challenge: Who is our Neighbor? (Four studies)
IJM / Cru Social Justice Studies (Three studies)
APPENDIX 2: CULTIVATING VISION
(available at crupressgreen.com/action)
“Evangelism and Social Justice” – Ron Sanders
“Joining in God’s Story” – Ryan Berg
“Launching Justice Movements” – Libby Swenson
“Win, Build, Send in the Context of Love” – Chip Scivicque
“Why Justice Matters” – Libby Swenson
The folks over at the Missional Church Network recommended this excellent handbook. They write:
If you are interested in effectively influencing others to take action on issues of social action, then I would highly recommend “Social Justice Handbook: Small Steps For A Better World” by Mae Elise Cannon. I am not familiar with any other resource of this kind. Cannon provides a comprehensive guide to the topic of social justice that is not only rooted in Scripture, but is replete with tangible ways to pursue justice through the local church or movement.
The handbook is divided into two main parts. Part one, which includes five chapters, titled “Foundations of Social Justice,” is meant to provide a biblical and theological framework for justice, and addresses how individuals and churches can get involved.
Chapter one, “God’s Heart for Justice,” is a broad view of the theological foundation for social justice. Chapter two focuses on definitions and questions about social justice. Chapter three, provides a history of Christian social justice in the United States. Chapter four addresses the process people must embark on to allow their hearts to be opened and broken toward those who are most affected by injustice and oppression. And chapter five focuses on the roles individuals, church, community and government can play in advocating social justice.
While each of the chapters are excellent, my favorite is chapter four. In it Cannon shares a very helpful process of moving people from apathy to advocacy, that I believe has broad implications for ministry. She writes:
Though social justice cannot be simplified to a step-by-step program, I have identified nine components to be consistently helpful in the movement from apathy to advocacy: prayer, awareness, lament, repentance, partnership and community, sacrifice, advocacy, evangelism, and celebration. Sometimes these elements happen in a linear progression, sometimes they happen simultaneously, and at other times they are cyclical. In any case, they are part of the ongoing process of personal transformation and spiritual growth toward Christlikeness.
Part two, “Social Justice Issues,” is arranged alphabetically and includes more than eighty justice “topics.” This section of the book is designed to be both a reference guide and a reflective tool. Cannon has included multiple ministry profiles, spiritual reflection and awareness exercises, and simple (not easy) action steps. Lastly, the book includes a wonderful set of appendixes, that include organizations, books and movies that deal with a variety of justice issues.
I appreciate the words of Gilbert Bilezikian as he sums up his recommendation of this resource: “The moment you open Social Justice Handbook, it will vibrate in your hands with the heart-passion that inspired its making, a passion generated by him who described his life-mission as bringing good news to the poor, release to captives, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed and the time of God’s grace.”
For additional insight on Cannon’s view of social justice see this brief, yet helpful interview by Jamie Arpin-Ricci.
Source: Missional Church Network (Excellent Resources)
1. Never give cash to a homeless person
Too often, well intended gifts are converted to drugs or alcohol – even when the hard luck stories they tell are true. If the person is hungry, buy them a sandwich and a beverage.
2. Talk to the person with respect.
Taking time to talk to a homeless person in a friendly, respectful manner can give them a wonderful sense of civility and dignity. And besides being just neighborly, it gives the person a weapon to fight the isolation, depression and paranoia that many homeless people face.
3. Recognize that homeless people (and their problems) are not all the same.
The homeless are as diverse as the colors of a rainbow. The person you meet may be a battered women, an addicted veteran, someone who is lacking job skills–the list goes on.
4. Share God’s love whenever you can.
If Jesus were walking the earth today, He would certainly spend time with the homeless. He would speak with them, heal them, and help them. Today, Jesus chooses to work through those who believe and follow Him.
5. Pray for the homeless.
Exposure to the elements, dirt, occasional violence, and lack of purpose all drain years from a person’s life. God can use your prayers and the brutality and the futility of life of the street to bring many of the broken to Himself.
6. Take precautions for your own safety.
Some living on the streets are criminals and fugitives running from the law. Always be prudent while talking with street people. Stay in areas where other people can see you. Don’t take unnecessary chances.
7. Encourage the homeless to get help through your local gospel-centered homeless ministry.
Gospel-centered homeless ministries seek to care for both the body and the soul. Some may provide emergency housing and meals, while others may provide long-term housing or specialized programs that seek to address the deeper causes of homelessness. Many offer spiritual mentoring and Bible study so that those who are homeless can build a strong foundation in Jesus. Others offer may offer day services that include mail services, luggage storage or laundry options.
8. Financially Support your local gospel-centered homeless ministry.
Many gospel-centered homeless ministries receive little or no government funding. They are primarily supported by caring individuals, churches, businesses, and civic groups who see the value of sharing their resources with the less fortunate.
9. Volunteer with your local gospel-centered homeless ministry.
Serving alongside your local ministry is a great way to build relationships with the homeless. Here, the collective wisdom of the ministry’s community will aid you as you take steps further and further in to the lives of the homeless. Ministries can rarely afford to hire enough staff, so they are dependent on volunteers to make deep impact in the lives of the homeless.
10. Pray for the leadership and staff of your local gospel-centered homeless ministry.
The demands placed on the leadership and staff of homeless ministries is extensive. The situations these people confront on a daily basis or complex and confusing. Pray that Jesus would continue to give the staff hope, strength and wisdom.
HT: Seed Blog
Libby S. passed on the attached article by the Evan Hunter (Director, Ivy Jungle Network). Evan challenges us to embrace a holistic gospel that proclaims the Kingdom of God, which grounds our actions in our faith.
In other words, we need help ourselves and our faculty/students to move beyond “simply doing something that makes them feel good to embracing the Kingdom of God in a way that gives meaning to our actions, develops an integrated life, and demonstrates the power of the gospel as a witness to the world.”
Evan offers three implications for Kingdom-centered discipleship:
1. Connect Meaning to Experience by “grounding the “feel good” (which are in fact “real” good) actions in a theology of reconciliation and the Kingdom” so that justice becomes a part of our lives and not just an endorphin rush. Use some of the excellent teaching available (see some suggested books, begin with Gary Haugen’s The Good News about Injustice) to expand your and your disciple’s thinking about Jesus and social justice. Teaching the whole counsel of Scripture, from creation to recreation, in broad strokes can give the theological framework for us to place our experiences in “serving the poor, pushing for racial reconciliation, or protecting the environment.”
2. Develop an Integrated Life (in us and others) that moves beyond the “cheap grace” which proclaims a one-dimensional, transactional gospel to a holistic “reconciliation” of God and the whole person and of all of creation. Faith touches all of life. To make that move, we need to engage faculty/students in the “mess of ministry” beyond the campus and across socio-economical barriers. Experience is a powerful teacher; doing cements the message in many ways. So, service projects that step beyond our usual comfort zones help us develop an integrated life which undercuts the false notions of a “secular/sacred” or “individual/community” divide. Hopefully, they reinforce at the same time the reality of an integrated life in which such efforts at “holistic reconciliation” are more than an “add on” that good Christians only do with their spare time.
3. Demonstrate the Power of the Gospel and the Power of God by proving that Christianity is not only true, it also works. When we engage in social justice, our movements confront evil, look squarely in the face of death and its ultimate defeat, and proclaim the eschatological hope that the “injustice of the world and the darkness of the grave” are not the end of the story. Such efforts prefigure God’s healing transformation of the world and stand as a sign of the new creation that God is bringing about now and will fully bring about in the future. Evan suggests we look for ways to partner on campus with other “communities” who care about racial reconciliation, the environment, or injustice. In partnering, we echo the heart of God and the potency of the gospel to those outside. This echo leads to the next implication.
4. Stand as a Witness to the World by engaging purposefully in social justice. We catch the world’s attention (our campus community’s attention); we become salt and light to a skeptical world. Historically, the influence of Christianity has been tied to social justice. So when we engaged in social justice, we stand as a significant witness to the world of the efficacy of the gospel. The world sees the Kingdom at work–and often those doing the work have the chance to share authentically about their reason for engaging in such works. If we can “connect meaning to the experience”, help develop an integrated holistic discipleship, and find ways to practically show that Christianity “works” in the toughest issues of life, we give ourselves and our students an ability to proclaim (in word and deed) the hope that comes from knowing the King and his coming Kingdom.
Read Evan’s excellent article here.
It may be helpful to clarify some terms. “Mission,” simply put, is everything the church is sent to be and do in the world. This definition assumes that God initiated the mission of the church and continues to direct it. Likewise, this definition affirms that churches are sent, since the very word “mission” implies being dispatched or sent to perform a task or service.
As Jesus was sent by God, so Jesus sent the disciples and followers who formed the church. As living embodiments of the living work of Christ, churches are to continue what Jesus began. The church, therefore, is by nature a sign and an agent of the kingdom of God here and now. Everything God rules is kingdom property. That includes everything the church is and does….
Mission involves everything the church does in response to God’s creative and redemptive mandates. Evangelism and mission are not synonymous. Social action is not the same as mission. Discipleship, stewardship, and fellowship, like evangelism and social responsibility, deal with specific and concrete actions. Together these functions become the mission of the church.–Ray Bakke and Sam Roberts, “The Expanded Mission of City Center Churches”?(International Urban Associates, 1998), p. 85.
In several posts at onmovements.com, I discussed Edwin Friedman’s concern about the Failure of Nerve in today’s leaders. He uses the example of Christopher Columbus and other Renaissance explorers, who broke the imaginative gridlock of his generation by going beyond the “contemporary maps” of their age. Columbus went east past the “dragons” as other explorers went south past the end of the earth.
Today’s movements are no different, argues Jim Henderson.
It was only a little over 500 years ago that the most popular maps showed an earth that ended at the Equator. The Equator was a boundary no one crossed and lived to tell about. We know that isn’t true now and wasn’t true then but it “felt” true to them.
Here’s the lesson: Maps make people feel and if we want people to change we need to give them alternate feelings – a new map. Only then will they walk out the door and see that the world is much bigger, more interesting and more receptive than they had come to believe.
As Brian McLaren says “If you have a new world you need a new map – you have a new world”
Henderson suggests that one of the new maps creating a new evangelical world is the church’s discovery that getting people to heaven and serving the community are not mutually exclusive. He argues:
The Missional movement is calling the church to serve the culture, to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. This movement was forced in part by the increased awareness people have of suffering all around them. Not just “over there” but right next door. What used to be derisively called the Social Gospel has become business as usual for even the most conservative evangelical churches…Today, due to a general disillusionment with much of the traditional church, more young people are voting with their feet and saying if you aren’t serving your community you aren’t going to see me in church.
In this regard, Henderson argues that missional movements should look to the Black Church because it has what we need. The Black Church, being marginalized for so long, discovered this new map long ago. Here Henderson breaks out his thinking:
The White church is slowly being pushed toward the margins of a culture it once dominated.
- Cell phone towers are replacing church steeples as key geographic (and cultural) markers
- For all its political effort, the religious right has come up largely empty handed
- The fastest growing faith segment in America is the “nones” those who claim no religion
The Good News: The Black church has been operating from the margins from its inception
- They’ve never had power or influence over the majority culture
- They’ve always had to do more with less
- They have experience with being ignored
- They’ve developed practical gospel that brings heaven to humans (as well as humans to heaven)
- They produced the most significant Christian leader of the 20th Century Martin Luther King Jr.
The Bad News: We’ve rarely asked them for help
- We have largely ignored their accomplishments
- We have been suspicious of their version of the gospel
The Best News: If we ask, they’re willing to help us
- Create a more practical gospel
- Become more about others and less about ourselves
Several of us were at the Catalyst Conference recently. This stood out as the conference’s most powerful moment. It’s a fairly long clip with some lead in and lead out clips around the story of Jimmy and Mark. Let me encourage you to hang in there and watch it all.
I couldn’t help but think of the impact a Compassion Sponsorship might have on a child in poverty–and perhaps more so–on a college student or faculty member like Mark whom we have challenged to care about the things that Jesus cares about. What if our students and faculty heard an announcement at a Winter Conference and sponsored a child like Mark did when he was in his 20s? How might that affect the life of our disciples?
By the way, we are working on developing a partnership with Compassion Int’l to support the discipleship, mentoring, and leadership development of over 2000 Leadership Development students, who are studying at the leading universities in these countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, Thailand, Uganda.
If you’d like to help, please contact me at JayLLL @aol.com.
This has already been called one of THE most powerful moments in Catalyst history; there wasn’t a dry eye in the arena after Jimmy Wambua met Mark, his Compassion Sponsor of 19 years, for the 1st time. It was an unbelievable moment…Jimmy begins to share at minute 3:45.
Perhaps we can broaden the heart of compassion in our students and faculty by encouraging them to sponsor a child through Compassion International? Maybe we should do the same thing for ourselves?
To sponsor a child, please visit Compassion.
In the car today, I (Eric Heistand) listened to a Catalyst speaker, Jamie Tworkowski. He’s the guy behind TWLOHA (To Write Love on Her Arms). If you haven’t heard of TWLOHA, you’ve missed something that almost every single one of our students knows about. I’ll let you read his story and vision (bottom of page) for yourself. In short: To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.
If you take the time to read the story and vision, you’ll notice a couple things:
· A vision that is huge, but they actually believe in it. It gets them out of bed in the morning. It also get a bunch of other college students out of bed. Side note—TWLOHA is apparently haven’t no shortage of college students who will take a break from school for a year to help the cause. Most of us are still scratching our heads wondering why STINT numbers are down. I think that many college students see a better story line.
· TWLOHA is a movement. Jamie didn’t go looking for it, it found him. It’s a Kingdom cause that resonates with a hurting world.
· This guy knows how to write a good story. Even the words, To Write Love on Her Arms, leaves you wondering what happens next.
· The story of TWLOHA reflects the essence of the Gospel story. It’s a thicker, dirtier story that rings true with young people and calls them to the hope and promise of a new creation.
A question I am pondering: Do the movements I work with have the vision to see the Jamie Tworkowski’s of the campus and in order that we might help them pursue their Kingdom calling?
Another thought: Organizationally, we tend to challenge with big numbers, big dreams, and a vision which encompassing EVERY person on earth. After hearing Jamie speak, he actually sounds more like the emotional worship leader we all know who never commits to much. You look at TWLOHA now and see that they’ve already raised over $600,000 towards fighting depression and suicide. I suspect that if Jamie had been challenged with creating a “World Changing” anti-suicide campaign that would reach every college student, he would have left our movement to go play in another band. Instead, he was simply faithful to do one thing: help a girl who was struggling with suicide. Maybe we do our students a favor by inviting them into the lofty dream of “Come Help Change the World” by inviting them to come help change one person.
Let me add to Eric Swanson’s “What if.” What if every student in our movement had the opportunity to Come Help Change the World by simply pursuing one person, one idea and then we help them run at it will all their might?
To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.
The vision is that we actually believe these things…
You were created to love and be loved. You were meant to live life in relationship with other people, to know and be known. You need to know that your story is important and that you’re part of a bigger story. You need to know that your life matters.
We live in a difficult world, a broken world. My friend Byron is very smart – he says that life is hard for most people most of the time. We believe that everyone can relate to pain, that all of us live with questions, and all of us get stuck in moments. You need to know that you’re not alone in the places you feel stuck.
We all wake to the human condition. We wake to mystery and beauty but also to tragedy and loss. Millions of people live with problems of pain. Millions of homes are filled with questions – moments and seasons and cycles that come as thieves and aim to stay. We know that pain is very real. It is our privilege to suggest that hope is real, and that help is real.
You need to know that rescue is possible, that freedom is possible, that God is still in the business of redemption. We’re seeing it happen. We’re seeing lives change as people get the help they need. People sitting across from a counselor for the first time. People stepping into treatment. In desperate moments, people calling a suicide hotline. We know that the first step to recovery is the hardest to take. We want to say here that it’s worth it, that your life is worth fighting for, that it’s possible to change.
Beyond treatment, we believe that community is essential, that people need other people, that we were never meant to do life alone.
The vision is that community and hope and help would replace secrets and silence.
The vision is people putting down guns and blades and bottles.
The vision is that we can reduce the suicide rate in America and around the world.
The vision is that we would learn what it means to love our friends, and that we would love ourselves enough to get the help we need.
The vision is better endings. The vision is the restoration of broken families and broken relationships. The vision is people finding life, finding freedom, finding love. The vision is graduation, a Super Bowl, a wedding, a child, a sunrise. The vision is people becoming incredible parents, people breaking cycles, making change.
The vision is the possibility that your best days are ahead.
The vision is the possibility that we’re more loved than we’ll ever know.
The vision is hope, and hope is real.
You are not alone, and this is not the end of your story.
This began as an attempt to tell a story and a way to help a friend in Spring 2006. The story and the life it represented were both things of contrast – pain and hope, addiction and sobriety, regret and the possibility of freedom. The story’s title “To Write Love on Her Arms” was also a goal, believing that a better life was possible. We started selling t-shirts as a way to pay for our friend’s treatment, and we made a MySpace page to give the whole thing a home. Our friends in Switchfoot and Anberlin were among the first to wear these shirts. In the days that followed, we learned quickly that the story we were telling represented people everywhere. We began to hear from people in need of help, and others asking what they could do to help their friends. We heard from people who had lost loved ones to suicide. Many said that these were questions they had never asked and parts of their story that they had never shared. Others were honest in a different way, confessing these were issues they knew little or nothing about.
It seemed we had stumbled upon a bigger story, and a conversation that needed to be had.Over the last two and a half years, we’ve responded to 80,000 messages from people in 40 different countries. We’ve had the opportunity to bring this conversation, and a message of hope and help, to concerts, universities, festivals and churches. We’ve learned that these are not American issues, not white issues or “emo” issues. These are issues of humanity, problems of pain that affect millions of people around the world.We’ve learned that two out of three people who struggle with depression never seek help, and that untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide. In America alone, it’s estimated that 19 million people live with depression, and suicide is the third-leading cause of death among those 18-24 years old.
The good news is that depression is very treatable, that a very real hope exists in the face of these issues. We’ve met people who are getting the help they need, sitting across from a counselor for the first time, stepping into treatment, or reaching out to a suicide hotline in a desperate moment.
To Write Love On Her Arms
Pedro the Lion is loud in the speakers, and the city waits just outside our open windows. She sits and sings, legs crossed in the passenger seat, her pretty voice hiding in the volume. Music is a safe place and Pedro is her favorite. It hits me that she won’t see this skyline for several weeks, and we will be without her. I lean forward, knowing this will be written, and I ask what she’d say if her story had an audience. She smiles. “Tell them to look up. Tell them to remember the stars.”
I would rather write her a song, because songs don’t wait to resolve, and because songs mean so much to her. Stories wait for endings, but songs are brave things bold enough to sing when all they know is darkness. These words, like most words, will be written next to midnight, between hurricane and harbor, as both claim to save her.
Renee is 19. When I meet her, cocaine is fresh in her system. She hasn’t slept in 36 hours and she won’t for another 24. It is a familiar blur of coke, pot, pills and alcohol. She has agreed to meet us, to listen and to let us pray. We ask Renee to come with us, to leave this broken night. She says she’ll go to rehab tomorrow, but she isn’t ready now. It is too great a change. We pray and say goodbye and it is hard to leave without her.
She has known such great pain; haunted dreams as a child, the near-constant presence of evil ever since. She has felt the touch of awful naked men, battled depression and addiction, and attempted suicide. Her arms remember razor blades, fifty scars that speak of self-inflicted wounds. Six hours after I meet her, she is feeling trapped, two groups of “friends” offering opposite ideas. Everyone is asleep. The sun is rising. She drinks long from a bottle of liquor, takes a razor blade from the table and locks herself in the bathroom. She cuts herself, using the blade to write “F*** UP” large across her left forearm.
The nurse at the treatment center finds the wound several hours later. The center has no detox, names her too great a risk, and does not accept her. For the next five days, she is ours to love. We become her hospital and the possibility of healing fills our living room with life. It is unspoken and there are only a few of us, but we will be her church, the body of Christ coming alive to meet her needs, to write love on her arms.
She is full of contrast, more alive and closer to death than anyone I’ve known, like a Johnny Cash song or some theatre star. She owns attitude and humor beyond her 19 years, and when she tells me her story, she is humble and quiet and kind, shaped by the pain of a hundred lifetimes. I sit privileged but breaking as she shares. Her life has been so dark yet there is some soft hope in her words, and on consecutive evenings, I watch the prettiest girls in the room tell her that she’s beautiful. I think it’s God reminding her.
I’ve never walked this road, but I decide that if we’re going to run a five-day rehab, it is going to be the coolest in the country. It is going to be rock and roll. We start with the basics; lots of fun, too much Starbucks and way too many cigarettes
Thursday night she is in the balcony for Band Marino, Orlando’s finest. They are indie-folk-fabulous, a movement disguised as a circus. She loves them and she smiles when I point out the A&R man from Atlantic Europe, in town from London just to catch this show.
She is in good seats when the Magic beat the Sonics the next night, screaming like a lifelong fan with every Dwight Howard dunk. On the way home, we stop for more coffee and books, Blue Like Jazz and (Anne Lamott’s) Travelling Mercies.
On Saturday, the Taste of Chaos tour is in town and I’m not even sure we can get in, but doors do open and minutes after parking, we are on stage for Thrice, one of her favorite bands. She stands ten feet from the drummer, smiling constantly. It is a bright moment there in the music, as light and rain collide above the stage. It feels like healing. It is certainly hope.
Sunday night is church and many gather after the service to pray for Renee, this her last night before entering rehab. Some are strangers but all are friends tonight. The prayers move from broken to bold, all encouraging. We’re talking to God but I think as much, we’re talking to her, telling her she’s loved, saying she does not go alone. One among us knows her best. Ryan sits in the corner strumming an acoustic guitar, singing songs she’s inspired.
After church our house fills with friends, there for a few more moments before goodbye. Everyone has some gift for her, some note or hug or piece of encouragement. She pulls me aside and tells me she would like to give me something. I smile surprised, wondering what it could be. We walk through the crowded living room, to the garage and her stuff.
She hands me her last razor blade, tells me it is the one she used to cut her arm and her last lines of cocaine five nights before. She’s had it with her ever since, shares that tonight will be the hardest night and she shouldn’t have it. I hold it carefully, thank her and know instantly that this moment, this gift, will stay with me. It hits me to wonder if this great feeling is what Christ knows when we surrender our broken hearts, when we trade death for life.
As we arrive at the treatment center, she finishes: “The stars are always there but we miss them in the dirt and clouds. We miss them in the storms. Tell them to remember hope. We have hope.”
I have watched life come back to her, and it has been a privilege. When our time with her began, someone suggested shifts but that is the language of business. Love is something better. I have been challenged and changed, reminded that love is that simple answer to so many of our hardest questions. Don Miller says we’re called to hold our hands against the wounds of a broken world, to stop the bleeding. I agree so greatly.
We often ask God to show up. We pray prayers of rescue. Perhaps God would ask us to be that rescue, to be His body, to move for things that matter. He is not invisible when we come alive. I might be simple but more and more, I believe God works in love, speaks in love, is revealed in our love. I have seen that this week and honestly, it has been simple: Take a broken girl, treat her like a famous princess, give her the best seats in the house. Buy her coffee and cigarettes for the coming down, books and bathroom things for the days ahead. Tell her something true when all she’s known are lies. Tell her God loves her. Tell her about forgiveness, the possibility of freedom, tell her she was made to dance in white dresses. All these things are true.
We are only asked to love, to offer hope to the many hopeless. We don’t get to choose all the endings, but we are asked to play the rescuers. We won’t solve all mysteries and our hearts will certainly break in such a vulnerable life, but it is the best way. We were made to be lovers bold in broken places, pouring ourselves out again and again until we’re called home.
I have learned so much in one week with one brave girl. She is alive now, in the patience and safety of rehab, covered in marks of madness but choosing to believe that God makes things new, that He meant hope and healing in the stars. She would ask you to remember.
“If history has shown us that the monster of slavery assumes new forms, it has also shown us that its oppressive systems crumble in the face of those who heartily oppose them. It is our collective responsibility to oppose slavery in the time given to us. History is on our side.”
-At the End of Slavery:
The Battle for Justice in our Time
As part of our emerging partnership with International Justice Mission, we’ll be encouraging Missional Team Leaders around the country to consider hosting a house party/screening of the new documentary on ending slavery. You can find all the info at www.attheendofslavery.com.
Here are some suggestions or actions steps that you can incorporate into your campus plan.
Change happens when ordinary people do what they can to take action. We can end slavery — but the battle will take all of us. How will you help shatter this system of oppression?
Take action today with one of these steps — or share how you’re fighting slavery with others in the Abolition Community (coming soon).
Host an At the End of Slavery house party or screening event. The fight against slavery will take all of us — Bring friends, colleagues, members of your church or community together to view and discuss the film and join the fight against slavery.
Learn more about modern-day slavery. Educate yourself so you can raise your voice on behalf of victims of this oppression. Start by reviewing these recommended books to learn more and this Q & A about slavery.
Advocate with your elected members of Congress. Members of Congress need to know that their constituents care about securing protection from violent oppression for the global poor. You don’t need to be an expert to make a difference! Visit IJM’s Justice Campaigns for updates, action alerts and more information on how to get involved: IJM Justice Campaigns.
Fund rescue. Pay for the rescue the poor cannot afford with a financial gift to IJM’s frontline work to fight slavery. Make a gift today, support IJM monthly as a Freedom Partner, or learn about hosting a table at an IJM Benefit Dinner in a city near you.
Suggestion: Show the following Film Trailer to your leadership team and plan a special outreach around this event.