One of the things I’ve found in my limited experience of trying to organize mercy ministry and outreach within a church setting is that people often want to go directly to the most extreme. To really do mercy ministry means driving downtown to the homeless shelter, working with addicts, and dealing with spousal abuse victims. These things are absolutely necessary, and may God bless all the people that do sacrifice themselves for this work.
However, I think it is also important to not overlook your back yard. This might be the average Joe group. This might be middle-class. That isn’t a bad thing. These people are just as likely to be suffering. It will simply look different. Their children are certainly as likely to be neglected, even if they do have Guitar Hero. There is a ministry here too.
I only say this because I’m still struggling with the “local” theme. It simply isn’t going to work for a bunch of affluent white folks, who live outside of town, to show up to help Jackson’s poor once a week. It will be a nice gesture, to be sure, but that sort of ministry really demands a person live among them. It demands full-time commitment. A lot of us will be rejected as hypocrites or used for a quick buck. We will have a hard time being taken seriously.
And again, I’m not arguing that people not do the gritty urban ministry. I think they should. They must. I am arguing that we be strategic though and not reject opportunities that might be on our front doorstep. What can you do where you are? What are the needs next door? What will this look like?
This is just food for thought, but I think we’ll need to be savvy about all of our ministries. We will be most successful in places where we can give our lives, and if that place happens to be among the “average” folks, then so be it.
This isn’t an easy out. Far from it. I bet you’ll have a harder time getting things going this way, actually. I bet you’ll have a harder time convincing folks that this is “real” ministry. But it certainly is.
So I’m still calling for a local outreach, only this time I’m addressing a different locality. Don’t miss what’s right before your eyes.